Greg Cohen is President of the American Highway Users Alliance, a Consumer Energy Alliance affiliate. Prior to joining The Highway Users in July 2002, Cohen served as a professional staff member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on the Highways and Transit Subcommittee where he was responsible for oversight of the Federal Highway Administration’s implementation of the 1998 highway bill, TEA 21. As a licensed Professional Engineer, Cohen’s primary role on the Committee was to provide policy assistance in areas of highway planning, engineering, and construction. Cohen submitted the following op-ed to Human Events on July 7, 2009. Click here for the original article.
Since the financial fallout beginning around this time last year, we’ve seen unprecedented levels of government action and involvement restore growth to the American economy, including the Wall Street rescue bill and the stimulus package.
Most, if not all, of these actions were taken in the name of economic stability. But while so many in Washington are focused on economic steadiness, few are talking about how harnessing America’s vast amounts of resources will help spur growth, drive-down fuel costs and increase energy independence.
For highway users, mobility and transportation access also depend on energy security. Highways are America’s economic arteries, and the costs of improvements that keep us moving are deeply affected by the cost of energy.
In addition, stable and growing fuel supplies mean easier access for motorists to jobs, shopping, and recreation — the very activities that increase consumer confidence and grow the economy. For shippers, growing energy supplies keep logistics costs down and ensure that the price of delivered goods is not manipulated by erratic fuel surcharges. That helps consumers too.
When energy costs go down, more people have more money to save, invest and spend. In fact, lower energy costs are akin to tax cuts. And when money is freed up in the market, small businesses expand, new jobs are created and individuals are empowered.
This is exactly why our lawmakers and elected officials should be focused on producing more energy here at home. We have enough resources to fuel our economy for years, but policies in place continue to keep most of them off-limits.
In Alaska, for example, positive steps were made over the past few years toward increasing safe, deep-ocean energy production. Almost one-sixth of the oil we use in America comes from Alaska and conservative estimates show there to be almost 30 billion more barrels of oil off its coast.
Steps toward production were underway until a federal court in Washington intervened, bringing the process to an abrupt halt. This sudden change will take the American economy in the wrong direction, increasing fuel prices, making infrastructure projects more expensive, and increasing dependence on imported supplies. The unprecedented decision to declare the current Interior Department five-year plan null and void based on a technicality leaves Americans without a blueprint to produce our own energy resources along the outer continental shelf (OCS).
Given the safe and clean, 21st century technologies now used for energy exploration, the capable workforce and infrastructure now in place, and the growing demand for energy, the Interior Department should be working diligently to amend the previously issued five-year plan, or produce a new one that ensures stable and growing American energy supplies, including opening up Alaska’s offshore waters for energy exploration.
National polls and surveys continue to show that Americans clearly believe that increasing safe, environmentally-sound energy production — including offshore efforts — must be a part of a well-balanced plan moving forward.
Strong public support, coupled with the clear economic benefits to American citizens, makes the timeline for action to increase energy exploration all the more significant. For motorists and other highway users, the Department of Interior’s action would be a big help in a difficult economic time.