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Opinion: At a moment like this, America should be expanding oil production, not cutting back

We need more supply to counter inflation and achieve independence from global shocks

With market forces and geopolitical turmoil leading to soaring energy prices, it has become abundantly clear that America needs more energy and the ability to produce it domestically.

Ken Summers

Unfortunately, the policies of the current administration have left us in an untenable situation. The cost of natural gas and oil have increased 100% and 60% respectively year to date, and inflation is out of control for consumer products, in part due to high transportation costs and the fact that many of them rely on oil and natural gas as part of their manufacturing processes.

With no plan in place to address the situation, it is time for the president to rethink his current energy policy.

Under past administrations — regardless of political party — domestic energy production was made a priority. Several active and proposed infrastructure projects were underway to make use of our energy capacity and to safeguard the wallets of American families. The United States even became energy independent. Regrettably, since President Joe Biden’s first day in office, we have experienced a full reversal and are now heading in the wrong direction.

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Among his first steps was to implement a pause of all new oil and gas leasing on federal lands. While this was eventually lifted, it merely gave way to a federal leasing plan that reduced acreage available for leasing by 80 percent and increased royalty costs.

Now with the Department of Interior set to release its five-year offshore leasing plan at the end of this month, I fear we will see more of the same. Our country’s opportunity to meet past production levels will be in jeopardy, resulting in increased costs for businesses and consumers. 

The type of hostile environment fostered by this administration will only deter investors, who are seeking the certainty of pro-energy policies that encourage investments over a 20-year timeframe, from seeking new energy development opportunities. Fears that the rug will be pulled out from under them by the Biden Administration has only made the energy industry more hesitant. With gas prices surpassing $5 per gallon, how can he continue to justify these actions? 

Ultimately, these restrictive measures from the administration will affect the bottom line of all states and their economies. But Colorado, as the country’s fifth largest oil producer and seventh largest natural gas producer, will be one of the most impacted. Responsible oil and natural gas development in the state contributes more than $13.5 billion to the Colorado economy annually and supports tens of thousands of jobs. The onerous energy policies of the Biden administration threaten to drive this economy- and job-sustaining engine away.

The same goes for prohibitive policies surrounding offshore leasing. Any further delays in releasing a new plan, or issuing one with overly restrictive provisions, will cost thousands of jobs, billions in lost revenue, and further hurt U.S. energy security. One study found that by 2036, a lapse in a five-year offshore leasing program could mean, nationwide, 885,000 fewer barrels of oil and natural gas per day from the Gulf of Mexico and a loss of 60,000 jobs.

Government interference with permit approvals are yet another roadblock to ensuring America’s energy security. Producers in Colorado have had to deal with their fair share of government blockades on the state level, whether regarding permit approvals or environmental lawsuits.

Similar hurdles on the national level would only exacerbate our energy crisis. For example, the Interior Department’s recent cancellation of an oil and gas lease sale in Alaska is anything but encouraging. At a minimum, it stands in confusing contrast to President Biden’s claims that nothing is standing in the way of energy companies ramping up production on federal lands to contain pump prices.

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Environmental and conservation projects in Colorado would  suffer if the Biden Administration continues along its current tack. Much of the revenue from offshore leasing goes to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a program created to maintain national and state landmarks and preserve the environment.

According to the National Park Service, in the fund’s first 49 years of existence it has “provided more than $16.7 billion to acquire new Federal recreation lands as grants to State and local governments,” through 40,400 grants. Like many states, Colorado landmarks benefit greatly from these funds and will immediately see negative effects if this revenue stream is eliminated.

The current energy situation in America is worse than it ever needed to be, but what needs to happen next is clear. Providing a stable energy production environment by removing restrictions on oil and gas production on federal lands, quickly releasing a new five-year offshore leasing plan, and fast-tracking critical energy transportation infrastructure will help turn the tide of this current economic crisis and allow the U.S. to regain energy independence once more.


Ken Summers, of Canton, Ga., is a fellow in state policy at the Centennial Institute and the former chairman of the Health and Environment Committee in the Colorado House of Representatives.


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