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Mr. President, Say Yes to Energy | Commentary

For far too long, our country’s energy policies have been based on the idea of energy scarcity and foreign dependence. Now, we seem to be on the verge of energy independence. In order to unleash our true energy potential, we must explore all options — including exploration on federal lands. It is time to have a long-term energy policy for America. While I welcome President Barack Obama’s recent Mid- and South-Atlantic offshore plan, I view it as one step forward and two steps back because he has removed millions of acres of potentially resource-rich land from exploration. It is time this administration says yes to energy; it is time to open the 87 percent of federal land currently prohibited from potential energy exploration.

The president’s decision to open areas for energy exploration in the Mid- and South- Atlantic Region but to close areas in Alaska sends mixed signals on his commitment to securing America’s energy needs. While the president may waver in his efforts to promote American energy security, here in Congress we are working on an energy package to unleash America’s potential as an energy superpower.

We are the world’s largest oil and gas producer, and consumers are seeing the benefits of this energy renaissance at the pump with lower fuel and heating prices. This boom in energy production is largely a result of state policies and private sector innovation; not, as the president would have you think, a direct result of his actions. The potential for economic growth and job creation is immense if we adopt a federal energy policy that expands access to energy exploration.

In addition to securing the nation’s energy demands, opening the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf will greatly benefit the nation from an economic standpoint. It is estimated that oil and natural gas development in the Atlantic OCS would create 280,000 new jobs along the East Coast from 2017 to 2035. Production here will create an annual impact of $23.5 billion for the U.S. economy while providing billions more in new tax revenue for the federal government. Further, beginning production in the Atlantic would see close to $200 billion in new private investment. In my home state of North Carolina, we would see more than 55,000 new jobs and more than $4 billion of new economic investment injected into the state’s economy. This is new revenue that can be reinvested into our nation’s aging energy infrastructure and highway system.

I see further exploration of federal onshore and offshore lands as an incredible opportunity to bolster the U.S. economy and create American jobs. This energy revolution also allows for us to use our domestic energy resources as a means to advance foreign policy and reduce the need for foreign oil from turbulent and unstable regions. The House of Representatives has continuously voted to promote American energy independence — only to find this administration standing in the way. The Obama administration has proposed costly and stifling regulations, closed federal lands to exploration and refused to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to move forward. If we are to reach energy independence, we have to start by enacting policies that enhance energy production from all sources and reduce regulatory hurdles. This is exactly what the House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to do with its Architecture of Abundance Energy Package.

While I believe the president’s inclusion of parts of the Atlantic OCS in the next offshore drilling plan is a step in the right direction, it concerns me that it comes with the offset of removing millions of acres off the coast of Alaska for exploration. With every acre the president bars from energy exploration, America moves further and further away from the notion of energy independence. It is time we prove that we are pro-energy and seize this opportunity for energy exploration.

If America is going to continue as the world’s energy superpower, we must take advantage of our energy resources and move forward.

Mr. President, it’s time to say yes to energy.

Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including the Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

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