Energy Independence Day

October 1, 2008 marks the expiration of the Congressional moratorium on energy production and exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf. This is great news, but it means very little in terms of actual energy production. At best, this means we can start producing energy in 6-7 years. It is very likely that it will take substantially longer (or, possibly, never). The Institute for Energy Research has, as usual, done excellent work detailing what happens next in terms of producing energy.  I encourage everyone to look over the extensive time, energy, and resources it will take to actually take any oil out of the ground.  6-7 years is really the best case scenario.  That said, the actual timeline will be much longer if we don’t keep the issue of domestic energy production in the spotlight and relevant to the national conversation.  If we let it go, Energy Independence Day will be a moot point.

Regulations and permitting processes aside, there is a more significant threat to domestic energy security: environmentalists.  Offshore drilling is legal along the northern Alaskan coastline already (it wasn’t covered by the moratorium), yet it is nearly impossible to actually drill for oil and natural gas.  Litigation by environmentalist groups prevent any progress on this front.  Consider a sample of the long list of lawsuits spearheaded by radical green groups in recent years (not just in Alaska):

  • Pacific Environment and the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Alaskan Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act for authoring regulations that would “unlimited harassment of polar bears and Pacific walrus by oil companies operating in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska.”  This is a direct result of the recent decision to classify the polar bear as an endangered species.
  • In 2003, 13 green groups, among them the National Wildlife Federation and the Wilderness Society, sued the U.S. Forest Service in federal court in Anchorage in an effort to block oil drilling planned for this fall at the historic Katalla oil field near Cordova.
  • The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Center of Santa Barbara and 8 other groups joined in suing the city of Santa Barbara, California in 2005 on the grounds that the U.S. Interior Department failed to conduct an adequate environmental analysis of the potential harm from new exploratory oil drilling scheduled to begin within two years off California’s coastline.
  • EarthJustice is involved in a least a dozen ongoing lawsuits aimed towards crippling the drilling industry – from getting gray wolves re-listed as an endangered species to working to have Shell’s legitimately granted air permits for drill sites revoked.

Decades of poorly thought out environmental policy has given the deep-pocketed, radical environmentalist groups the power to control American domestic energy production.  The policies that the enviros use against us were formulated in a time when people were driving Pintos, listening to records, and couldn’t fathom the internet.  The technology in the past few decades has simply exploded.  Energy drilling and production can be done with minimal environmental impact, spills are rare, our refining processes are cleaner than ever, but still we can’t revamp the laws.

Nothing will be achieved until there are significant changes in policy and those won’t come without significant efforts on the part of those who support domestic energy independence.  This issue needs to be kept in the national spotlight and people need to be talking about it.  Polling shows that support for domestic energy production is higher than ever and still on the rise. With all this support, why isn’t something being done?

Energy Independence Day… yeah right.