Two-hundred and thirty eight years ago, our Founding Fathers declared America's independence from the heavy hand of King George III and Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence set off a chain reaction of events that have given Americans unparalleled freedom and prosperity. And despite America's still sluggish economy, we have the highest standard of living - the highest quality of life - that the world has ever seen. But we can do better. And now we have a once in a generation - maybe even rarer - opportunity to seize our energy independence.
In 2014, America is dependent on other nations to meet our energy needs. But, we need not be. For too long we've had to rely on OPEC, and the whims of third world dictators, to put gas in our cars and to keep the engines of our economy running smoothly. We watch Vladimir Putin's Russia, one of our top rivals, use their energy as a strategic weapon in the Ukraine, and we've seen him use it as an economic weapon before in Eastern Europe, on our allies who must resort to buying Russian natural gas to heat their homes in the winter. And thus far, America has been unable to offer our allies another alternative.
But now we have a choice. The U.S. is now a global superpower in terms of oil and natural gas production - we're competitive with Saudi Arabia and Russia. This remarkable shift has happened not because of government policies, but despite them. Primarily, this dramatic turnaround has occurred because of innovation advancing technology in getting oil and natural gas out of shale formations that are plentiful in the U.S., and in large quantities in Eastern and Southeastern Ohio's Utica and Marcellus shale plays. As our production has gone up (we pump about 10.3 million barrels of oil a day, compared to Russia at 10.8 million and Saudi Arabia at 11.7 million), our imports have gone down. We buy 32 percent less natural gas, and 15 percent less oil from other nations than we did five short years ago.
But we can, and should, be doing better. The vast majority of the increase in America's oil and natural gas production is happening on private lands. In fact, a study by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) found that under the Obama Administration, oil production on federal lands has actually fallen by six percent, while increasing by 61 percent on state and private lands. This Administration's hostility toward traditional fuels comes as no surprise. President Obama has gone out of his way, through regulation, to hurt both the supply and demand sides of the coal industry, living up to his threat that "if someone wants to build a new coal-fired power plant they can, but it'll bankrupt them." Under our current President, America has no national energy policyno pathway to independence.
In the absence of leadership from the White House and the Senate, the House of Representatives has taken action. Last week, the House passed three important pieces of legislation, with my support, that begin putting America on a path toward energy independence.
* The Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel and America that Works Act. Under President Obama, the average price of gasoline has increased to $3.68 - double what it was when he first took office. The Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel an America that Works Act would expand production of our energy resources by opening up areas offshore currently restricted by the Obama Administration. Opening up these areas could generate over $1 billion in new revenue, and create an estimated 1.2 million jobs, all while easing the squeeze at the gas pump.
* The Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act. Due to America's historic increase in natural gas production in places like Eastern and Southeastern Ohio, America has the opportunity to realize economic and geopolitical benefits. In Ohio alone, the American Petroleum Institute estimates that over 30,000 jobs will be created as a result of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, and over 665,000 jobs could be created nationwide by 2035. The only thing standing in the way is President Obama's Department of Energy, currently sitting on over 20 LNG export permits. This legislation would expedite the approval process for LNG export permits.
* The North American Energy Infrastructure Act. The Keystone XL Pipeline, which would create tens of thousands of American jobs, has been delayed by this Administration for nearly six years. This common sense legislation would modernize the cross-border pipeline approval process, and require submissions to be approved within 120 days.
This Independence Day, it's time for Americans to start thinking about another kind of independence - energy independence - and demand that Washington take action to reach the goal. In a country blessed with so much oil, natural gas and coal, nuclear energy, and hydropower, and with the potential that renewable fuels provide, we can do this. It is a choice. President Obama clearly thinks either American can't, or shouldn't, be energy independent. I fundamentally disagree. And I believe if we choose energy independence, we'll open up a new horizon of American exceptionalism that we haven't seen in decades: new industries; more innovation; more jobs; and, more freedom, prosperity and choices for all hardworking American families.
If you'd like to learn more about this vision, please visit my website at www.billjohnson.house.gov and click on the 'Energy 2020' tab.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson is Ohio's Sixth Congressional District representative.