America’s energy has two sides

Published 12:05 am Thursday, May 26, 2011

There are many things that make the United States the great nation it is. Three of these relate directly to the debate over American energy production.

They include our bountiful natural resources, the freedoms established by our Founding Father, and the determination of the American people.

From the oil wealth of the Gulf Coast, to the coal reserves of Appalachia, from the hydroelectric power that characterizes much of the American West, to the oilfields of Alaska, America is blessed with an almost boundless supply of energy wealth. Since this nation’s founding, Americans have sought to explore and develop this bounty, and in recent decades we have become more responsible stewards. With gas prices averaging $3.75 per gallon in Mississippi according to AAA, we should unlock America’s supply to meet our needs.

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Last week, the Senate debated and voted on two measures related to energy. Although neither proposal received the necessary 60 votes for passage, the debate did manage to highlight two very different approaches to our energy policy.

One, the Offshore Production and Safety Act, would have increased access to domestic oil and natural gas. This strategy would create jobs and spur economic growth, while increasing government revenues and improving industry safety.

Oil and natural gas reserves are abundant and accessible in the United States today.

Tapping these domestic resources is essential to lowering energy prices and making us more energy independent.

The Offshore Production and Safety Act is one part of the solution to decrease our unemployment rate, which is currently at 9 percent. America’s oil and natural gas sector is responsible for 9.2 million jobs in this country. Expanding that 9.2 million to a higher figure would be an important boost for our economy.

Senate Democrats offered the other measure, which I opposed because it would have raised taxes on American energy production, discouraging economic activity, taxing industriousness and putting more of our resources off-limits for development.

It makes little sense to suggest that the appropriate response to soaring gasoline prices is greater taxation on the companies that produce oil and gas.

In the larger picture, the Administration’s energy policy is not comprehensive. It fails to promote the utilization of proven domestic resources, and the production it does allow comes wrapped in bureaucratic red tape.

Our goal should be to increase our energy independence in the near term, but the White House seems to want to lead us in the opposite direction. Most Mississippians understand that higher taxes and more regulations will do nothing to encourage increased production.

I have supported, and continue to support, innovation in the area of biofuels, geothermal power, wind and solar energy. At the same time, we need to address current needs with available domestic energy resources, such as oil and natural gas.

Energy independence — a goal we all share — cannot be achieved without increased domestic exploration.

Sen. Roger Wicker is a Republican representing Mississippi in the U.S. Senate.