EnergyFactor By ExxonMobil | Pespectives has a new home

U.S. energy future: What choice will we make?

The extraordinary increase in production from the U.S. oil and natural gas industry has been one of the biggest stories of the last few years – and about the only consistently good economic news the nation has seen since the bottom nearly fell out of the economy in 2008.

But what if we could do more?

Our nation’s energy future is in large part guided by the policy directions our leaders take. In recent weeks two organizations have put forth energy proposals that shine a bright light on that path and discuss the possibility of a much more promising future.

Both sets of proposals – from the American Petroleum Institute (API) and from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy – make clear it is up to American voters and U.S. policymakers to determine what sort of energy future we will have.

As API President Jack Gerard said in his “State of American Energy” address, our energy policy discussion comes down to a basic choice: “An American energy future of energy abundance, self-sufficiency and global leadership or energy scarcity, dependence, and economic uncertainty.”

Ideas for moving forward

The Chamber of Commerce report, meanwhile, offers 64 specific policy proposals in nine key policy areas that are designed to build on the current energy revolution and harness its power for America’s long-term benefit.

Among these broad policy areas are proposals to remove the barriers to increased oil and natural gas exploration and production both onshore and offshore.

You might expect us to agree with those – and, by and large, we do – but I also wish to note several other areas highlighted by the Chamber that are critical to the overall health of the American economy.

One is updating the antiquated permitting process for needed 21st century energy infrastructure. What is clear is that the challenges we face are not technological or economic so much as they are bureaucratic and political.

That point was brought home by API’s Gerard, who said, “The now five-plus-year evaluation process of the Keystone XL pipeline has lasted longer than America’s involvement in the Second World War, longer than it took our nation to put a man in space, and almost as much time as it took to build the transcontinental railroad 155 years ago.”

Efforts to improve the process by which government officials review and permit major energy infrastructure projects must become a priority in Washington.

Reining in regulatory overreach

The Chamber also notes that “the scope and pace of federal rulemakings have increased dramatically in the past few years, including on energy.” According to government data, “The total annual cost to comply with federal regulations was $1.82 trillion in 2011,” while the number of new rules that impose billion-dollar compliance costs has been increasing.

A sensible balance should be brought to bear on new regulatory proposals, and the Chamber offers a host of suggestions on how to do so.

There’s a lot of wisdom wrapped up in the policy recommendations trumpeted by API and the Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy. Let’s hope our policymakers listen to them.

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