Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

Economic recovery through American energy development

May 9, 2013

The Hill
Pearland Journal
Economic recovery through American energy development
By Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) - 05/08/13 06:23 PM ET

Despite the stranglehold the Obama administration has placed on the U.S. economy, energy production remains one of the few bright spots in job creation. America’s domestic energy industry employs more than 9 million Americans and brought in roughly $60 billion in federal and state revenue for 2012. Low-cost energy means good jobs, a resurgence of manufacturing, a reduction of energy imports and the ability to export a vital commodity to our friends and allies. Recently revised size estimates of shale formations reinforce the fact that the U.S. can be a global leader in energy production, including exports. The Department of Interior now estimates that the amount of available U.S. recoverable crude is double what we thought it was just five short years ago. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline will also provide a greater supply of oil from a friendly ally to the north, helping stabilize market prices and helping reduce our need for energy from unpredictable, sometimes hostile regions of the world. Unfortunately, the Obama administration is doing all it can to slow or stop this energy revolution. It continues to issue rules and regulations that threaten to make energy production too costly, with the potential to force producers and manufacturers overseas. 

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, and horizontal drilling are the technologies that have revolutionized our ability to access oil and gas previously thought inaccessible. Fracking has been conducted safely for more than 50 years under a sound state regulatory process. New drilling based on these technologies has flourished on private lands, while access to federal lands lags behind, mired in red tape. And now, the Interior Department is writing stricter new rules for fracking on federal lands, while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducts a massive study on fracking that could lay the ground work for comprehensive federal regulations covering both public and private lands. If they are successful, it would add more layers of bureaucracy to the process, further slowing down production. Instead, we can keep capitalizing on this combination of home-bred technologies by continuing to enforce commonsense state-based regulations on drilling practices. 

Sadly, it doesn’t stop there. Federal regulators are working to bypass states and intervene in the refining process through the first of a wave of new, multibillion-dollar regulations. After refineries successfully cut sulfur emissions by 90 percent in the last decade, President Obama’s EPA now wants to add to the cost of producing gasoline by requiring an additional 66 percent reduction. These rules will add billions of dollars to the cost of refining, a cost that will be passed on to the American consumer. All of this for what could be a relatively minor improvement in air quality. Affordable electricity is also feeling the pinch of the Obama administration. After four years of remarkably costly rules that will shutter generating plants across the country, the EPA is finalizing greenhouse gas rules that will effectively ban new coal plants, and is working on rules for existing sites. We can expect other rules on ash, water handling, plant impacts on fish and a laundry list of pollutants that have already been cut dramatically in recent years. Depending on how they are drafted, these rules could significantly add to the cost of production and critically impact our global competitiveness. They will add billions in production costs that will hit consumers hard. 

As American ingenuity enables our nation to become a global leader in energy production, exporting liquefied natural gas should also be a bright spot for our economy. Many companies are looking to spend billions in private dollars on massive new projects. Unfortunately, the process has become a multi-year regulatory quagmire, with only one company receiving approval to date. Meanwhile, Canada is close to beating us to the punch. America should be the dominant global leader in liquefied natural gas exports, but again, the Obama administration is finding ways to hamstring this effort. The American energy renaissance can reshape our nation’s economic landscape. Domestic energy production has the power to create jobs, bring billions in new federal revenue to pay down our debt and provide a low-cost, stable supply of energy to hardworking Americans. But, it can only do this if the federal government gets out of the way. States are doing what they should to regulate and oversee hydraulic fracturing. Energy producers have complied with a complex and costly set of bureaucratic regulations and have improved air quality. It’s time to unleash our nation’s resources and reap the full rewards of the American energy renaissance. 

Olson is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.