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SPOTLIGHT
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Scarce energy? It's a fallacy

Published on -3/11/2013, 10:29 AM

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As domestic energy production continues to be at the center of national attention, some groups continue to oppose oil and natural gas production. What are their reasons?

Let's put a framework around the underlying context here. In other words: Why do oil and gas matter to the economy and national energy security, and why do folks on the other side fight so hard to attack both? There is a view that opposition to oil and gas production comes from foes' efforts to protect the environment and the public's health and safety. However, this thing is about more than that.

What it's about is a broader recognition among those who oppose American energy development that now, all of a sudden, and really for the first time in our lifetime, we no longer live in a world of energy scarcity. Literally from the moment oil was discovered more than 150 years ago, right up through today, people in positions of power and influence have been telling us time and again the world is running out of energy, and in particular oil and natural gas.

In 1980, government analysts estimated that the total proved reserves for North America were 67 billion barrels. Thirty years later, more than 240 billion barrels have been consumed by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico -- and yet today, according to those same government agencies -- North America's proved reserves now exceed 210 billion barrels. So, to recap, North America has consumed 400 percent more oil than proved reserves estimated in 1980 and today's estimates put proved reserves at about 300 percent more than folks 30 years ago estimated, even with growth in consumption taking place.

The U.S. Geological Survey confirmed last year that the U.S. actually in fact has 26 percent of the world's technically recoverable oil and 30 percent of the world's technically recoverable natural gas, and that does not include unconventional reserves. Folks who oppose American energy development have only recently begun to wake up to the realities that we no longer live in a world of energy scarcity.

But even as they curse the science, technology, and laws of physics that have conspired to allow producers to boost their yields and delay indefinitely that which they once thought to be imminent and inevitable -- namely the end of oil -- they also have come to realize they might be able to manufacture the same outcome (the end of oil) by advocating environmental, regulatory, and tax proposals that disrupt orderly oil and gas development.

The Obama administration has embraced the energy scarcity theory and is finding it difficult to come to grips with the destruction of that narrative. We have enough fossil fuel energy resources right here in America to provide reliable and affordable energy for decades, even centuries to come.

Yet the Obama administration looks for opportunities to attack, weaken or destroy domestic oil and natural gas production to justify their academic notions of energy scarcity and to promote their "clean energy" and climate change agenda.

American oil and natural gas producers are under siege from agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, OSHA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

President Obama has promised American voters energy development and jobs. The president indicated a strong commitment to oil and natural gas development as an essential part of his all-of-the-above energy strategy. Voters support that too. Recent polling showed 73 percent of voters favor increased oil and natural gas production, 91 percent believe more oil and natural gas development could lead to more U.S. jobs, and 86 percent believe it could lower energy costs for consumers. Americans deserve an energy policy that reflects their views and that will build a stronger, more prosperous, more secure future. Our elected leaders now have an opportunity to make that happen.

We have the resources to meet our energy challenges. Policies that encourage the development of America's vast oil and natural gas resources combined with measures to strengthen our partnerships with Canada and Mexico could rebalance energy geopolitics making North America energy independent. This is not a vision of America at the mercy of other oil-producing regions or an America threatened by scarce resources. It is a vision of America holding the reins of her energy security and future prosperity.

We need to get to work doing the right things for a better energy future. Most Americans understand this. They want more jobs. They want more affordable and reliable energy. It's time to move policy in that direction.

Edward Cross is president of the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association.

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