On Thursday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will hold a public hearing in San Francisco on the future of expanded development of America’s vast energy resources. At stake will be whether continued, or expanded, offshore petroleum production will be allowed. While the topic can be made complex, it affords perhaps the simplest stimulus to our ailing economy.
Greater access to the oil and gas reserves right off our coast would mean new job opportunities at home, right now. That’s noteworthy, especially to the 494,000 Californians who lost their jobs last year. The labor market generated by allowing domestic energy companies access to those natural resources would include rig operators, engineers, environmental and safety specialists, and many more. According to a recent study by the American Energy Alliance, an energy and environmental think tank, California stands to gain about 300,000 new, well-paying, long-lasting jobs.
The American Energy Alliance estimates that as energy companies purchase leases for access and pay additional taxes while drilling, $2.2 trillion would flow to federal, state and local government coffers.
Mineral royalty payments are one of the U.S. Treasury’s largest contributors, totaling some $22 billion in 2008 from oil and natural gas production, according to the American Petroleum Institute.
The promise of new production would also attract investors. Economic insecurity is a serious concern for thousands of Americans with pension funds invested in domestic energy companies. By simply allowing U.S. companies to develop our country’s vast oil and natural gas resources, Congress can stimulate our energy industry, bolster the market for energy stocks, and help to secure the retirement funds of our nation’s pension holders.
It’s no wonder the majority of Americans – even the majority of Obama voters – supported increased access to offshore drilling in polls conducted in summer of 2008.
Now, here’s the significance of the Department of the Interior’s upcoming hearing in San Francisco: Many of the existing environmental laws and regulations concerning offshore energy production are decades old and simply do not reflect the technological breakthroughs that have enabled us to produce energy and protect the environment at the same time. These outdated laws – and those who file frivolous lawsuits based on them – threaten to stop forward progress on greater offshore energy production.
That’s why it is critical for Californians to let Washington know that they support increased production of the energy resources they own. At this critical juncture, it is vital that all options be kept open.
Energy plan hearing
The U.S. Department of the Interior will hold a public hearing Thursday in San Francisco to take testimony on a five-year energy plan. Proposed new federal offshore oil and gas leases are the most controversial part of that plan.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar also wants to include plans for wind, wave and tidal power generation.
The Department of the Interior oversees more than 1.7 billion acres on the Outer Continental Shelf – an area roughly three-fourths the size of the United States.
When: 9 a.m., Thursday
Where: Mission Bay Conference Center at UCSF, San Francisco
Tom Tanton is a former policy adviser with the California Energy Commission and currently an environmental fellow at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco. He is the president of T2 & Associates, an energy consulting firm.
This article appeared on page A – 15 of the San Francisco Chronicle