But what, some ask, about the environmental impact? If we drill in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, for example, or in many offshore areas, won’t we be harming nature and local species? In fact, technology has improved substantially over the years, reducing the “footprint” of such drilling efforts to a tiny one. (The booming herds of caribou around the Prudhoe Bay area in Alaska, for example, are encouraging.) And their safety record is impressive. As Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson says, “We have thousands of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, yet not even hurricanes Katrina and Rita resulted in spills of any significance.”
Fortunately, President Bush has called recently for America’s offshore areas to be opened to exploration and drilling. “If Congress is serious about addressing high energy costs,” Lieberman writes in a Heritage Web memo, “it should quickly send legislation to the president that removes restrictions on these vital energy reserves.”
Lawmakers can take some other sensible steps while they’re at it. They should repeal the mandate to mix more ethanol in our nation’s gasoline supply, for one. As Ben Lieberman notes in another Heritage paper, all the ethanol mandate has done is raise prices -- not only on energy (which it supposedly would bring down) but on food.
It’s also time for Congress to stop subsidizing “alternative” energy sources such as wind and solar power. There’s anything wrong with such sources -- if private investors want to fund them, no one’s stopping them. But more than 30 years of attempts by the federal government to encourage such alternatives have resulted in numerous failures. Even after decades of special tax breaks, wind and solar power account for less than 3 percent of our nation’s electricity.
What else can policymakers do? They can cut some of the regulatory red tape that affects refineries and gas supplies. Heritage research shows that tight refinery capacity contributes to higher prices at the pump. We need new refineries, but current regulations make it all but impossible to build a new one or expand an existing one. This needs to change. It’s also crucial that we get more of our energy from nuclear power.
President Reagan knew how to respond to high gasoline prices. He deregulated crude oil prices in the 1980s, a decision which brought gas prices down and helped spur economic growth.
It’s time we open the marketplace and harness the rich, natural resources of oil right here in America.