America’s energy challenges became apparent during the summer of 2008 as gasoline prices rose past four dollars per gallon, breaking records. The energy crisis became a hot-button issue through the 2008 presidential race as candidates came forward with their own solutions, but on the issue of energy, we cannot choose between Republicans or Democrats. Every tool at this country’s disposal needs to be utilized in order to combat the cost of energy and promote energy independence. An ‘all of the above’ energy policy needs to include and expansion of domestic drilling, and all appropriate alternative energy solutions. One thing is clear: increased government regulation will only exacerbate the current problems.
In July 2008, President George W. Bush lifted an executive ban on domestic oil drilling that was put into place by his father in 1990. In 1990, a gallon of regular gasoline cost only $1.16 due to minimal worldwide demand. Then, it seemed logical to import America’s energy. By 2007, gas prices were on the rise and 58 percent of total US oil was imported from abroad. Money that would otherwise be spent on domestic drilling operations is now being put into the economies of countries in the Middle East and Central America; some of it finds its way into the hands of violent regimes that hurt the US. Another problem with importing a majority of our petroleum is that the end product ends up costing more than it would have if domestically produced. The price of the petroleum that the US buys from abroad is fixed by OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, an oil cartel that disregards. OPEC ensures that foreign oil tycoons and thugs worldwide can make hefty profits, all at the expense of American consumers. Domestic drilling for oil in America will allow these problems to be alleviated. The US government needs to lift constraints on drilling in the Rocky Mountains, in the ANWR of Alaska, and offshore. For example, in the Green River formation of the Rockies, it is estimated that there are 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil; this amount alone is three times greater than the total oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. America is capable of becoming a major oil producer, but it is ultimately the choice of government legislators to decide whether America can produce her own energy.
While fossil fuels power America in the present and into the near future, continuing our dependence on fossil fuels like coal and petroleum will not help us. Various forms of alternative sources of energy need to be explored as a means of replacing nonrenewable fuels. America needs an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy that allows all sources of energy to be explored. This strategy must include wind, solar, and nuclear energy. Currently, the US derives 57 percent of its energy from coal-fired power plants. This fossil fuel is known to cause air pollution and arguably contributes to global warming. Wind, solar, and nuclear power do not release carbon dioxide or any other greenhouse gasses into the air and should be employed around the country. Solar power can be utilized in deserts where the sun shines with little obstruction. Wind turbines can be built along coastlines where sea breezes blow. Both of these will not only contribute to increased pollutant-free energy production, but wind and solar energy will help to create thousands of jobs that cannot be outsourced. A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists said that 297 thousand jobs could be created by 2025 if alternative energy sources are expanded. Nuclear power should not be ignored as a means of reaching energy independence. Nuclear power plants produce vast amounts of energy through nuclear fission, but there are only 109 nuclear power plants in the United States. Combined, they produce 20 percent of US energy. In comparison, there are more than 600 coal-fired power plants in the US, which produce 57 percent of our energy. This means that each nuclear reactor produces about two times the amount of energy as a coal-fired plant while emitting no greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, the last nuclear plant to be built was constructed in 1977. America needs to build more nuclear power plants if we are to responsibly produce energy. Any and all feasible methods of energy generation must be researched and adopted.
The quest to end dependence on foreign oil and the push for alternatives faces opponents in America. Many government bureaucrats are opposed to domestic drilling for oil. They see the use of American land to extract energy as being destructive, even if it helps to lower gas prices and reduce foreign dependency. Because of this mentality, congress refuses to lift the congressional ban on offshore drilling. Another crime that the government perpetrates against America’s energy future is the self-selection of alternative energy sources. For example, President Obama’s stimulus bill allocates money for particular alternative energy sources. For example billions of dollars go to solar and wind power while nuclear power does not get any government funding. In America, the free market needs to decide which energy sources see another day and which do not, not Washington. It will be the choice of consumers, present and future, to determine whether America moves closer to energy independence.
In the pursuit of energy independence, there are many sources of energy that must be researched and applied. Through more domestic drilling for oil, America will not need to depend on foreign countries for energy. With the use of alternative energy sources like solar, wind, and nuclear, America will be able to create energy that does not pollute the environment and will never run out. Now, it is up to the government to take the first step, though it has formerly limited America’s ambition. They need to remove regulations and allow America to explore sources of energy, both new and old.