As a Republican primary election heads into some key southern states, CEA is taking the lead in keeping energy policy at the front of the agenda. On March 12 we hosted candidates Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and other policymakers at the Gulf Coast Energy Summit in Biloxi, Mississippi where over 600 residents and representatives from virtually all national and local media were in attendance.

Gingrich and Santorum, who also participated in CEA’s Colorado Energy Summit last month, spoke in Biloxi about the need for a strong national energy policy that allowed better access to our oil and gas resources. They stressed that better access to reserves in the Gulf region alone could yield hundreds of thousands of barrels of additional home-grown oil per day. Additionally, they also addressed the high gasoline prices that we are all paying, and they reminded the audience that increased domestic energy production would not only promote more affordable energy, and create jobs, but would also improve national security.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant also spoke at the event where he held up the state of Mississippi as a model for energy policy. The state, which last year was ranked the most attractive spot on the planet for oil and gas investment, has focused on developing oil and gas as well as renewable sources of energy, and encouraging energy efficiency.  For all these accolades, Governor Bryant also recognizes the need to do more. He has introduced legislation that would encourage more energy development. Other speakers representing local Gulf Coast interests spoke of how the moratorium and permitorium have hurt businesses and families in the region. They called on the federal government to enact sound policies, like those practiced by state governments in the Gulf region, to increase energy production and economic development in the region. Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman provided an illustration of the vast difference between state and federal government regulation of industry when he noted that it can take years to get drilling permits for federal lands and the offshore and it only takes three days to get a permit for private lands in Texas.

Like the rest of the country, Mississippi could use more jobs and like the rest of the country, its residents would be better off paying less for fuel. Although its Gulf Coast location puts it near the center of our domestic energy industry, the typical Mississippian is not unlike residents of the nation’s heartland or those on either coast. Across the country, people are hoping to find work or hold onto the jobs they have and finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet, largely because of the high price of fuel. CEA, by engaging our elected officials and those running for office in sites all around the country, is working to move the discussion of energy policy beyond just the energy sector. The core issues – of increased domestic production to improve supply, make gasoline more affordable, and create jobs – are quite simple and impact all of us. We are happy to be doing a part in taking this message to the voters this election year.