| August 31, 2012

Energy is the master resource, so let's develop what we have

It's basic, say energy policy experts: Every dollar an American family spends on energy is a dollar it can't spend elsewhere, and boosting supply helps to lower the price of energy.

In a series of green room videos, OCPA national policy summit panelists further expounded the connections among energy supply, energy prices and overall quality of life.

"When you force high-cost energy that doesn't produce any better quality energy or any more energy and doesn't cause any significant improvement in the environment, you've now forced people to spend money that they might otherwise be spending on their children or their education or their health," said David Schnare, former EPA lawyer and the current director of the Center for Environmental Stewardship at the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy in Virginia.

Gary Palmer, president of the Alabama Policy Institute, agrees.

"[Energy policy] matters [to] your monthly cash flow," Palmer said. "If we could lower energy prices, it's going to have a big beneficial impact for low-income families and particularly for senior citizens. There's 25.3 million households in the United States where the occupants are over 65 and are on a fixed income. By lowering energy prices, you could, in effect, increase their Social Security benefits or, at least, stretch them out."

Cheap energy is also a boon to job creation and manufacturing. Consider Boeing: Long before the airplane manufacturer opened a plant in South Carolina to capitalize on that state's right-to-work status, the company chose to produce airplanes in Washington state because hydropower was cheap and abundant, according to Freedom Foundation vice president Trent England.

This administration, though, seems to think affordable energy is less the goal than favoring preferred producers. At every turn, heavy-handed regulations thwart the efforts of producers to increase supply and lower costs.

In Montana, for example, 30 percent of the land belongs to the federal government -- and opportunities to develop that land are scarce.

"A lot of [Montana's energy] reserves are under federal land and getting permits and being able to exploit those reserves in a responsible way is very difficult and time-consuming and expensive," said Carl Graham, president of the Montana Policy Institute.

Virginia, too, hasn't been able to take full advantage of its coal and nuclear resources, Schnare said.

"Virginia wants to become the eastern energy center and we are looking for those kind of opportunities but, without the cooperation of the federal government, it'll never happen."

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