Louisiana energy industry leader speaks out over implications of Middle East conflict

A wise person once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In the wake of civil unrest mounting in the Middle East and skyrocketing energy prices, it’s safe to say that our nation’s backward energy policy continues along the path of lunacy.

For decades now, our nation’s energy policy has brought about significant economic hardship that otherwise could have been avoided. From the oil embargo of the 1970’s to constant price fluctuations dictated by OPEC nations, the U.S. remains handcuffed by energy dependency from unfriendly and unstable countries. The drumbeat has always remained, “Relieve our nation’s dependency on foreign oil.” But today’s problems bring more importance to another familiar mantra, “Ensure our nation’s energy security.”

The political turmoil sweeping across countries like Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and Tunisia has resulted in rising oil and gasoline prices, increased inflation, devalued currencies, and diminishing stock values. According to the AAA, American consumers are now paying an average of $3.17 a gallon for regular gasoline and prices could easily top $3.50 by the summer driving season. The two-year high of oil and gasoline prices should be significant warning signs for the Administration and policy makers in Washington. Unfortunately for U.S. consumers, no one is taking action to alleviate the strain on their pocketbook.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister sought to reassure us all that OPEC was ready to pump more oil to compensate for any oil supply decline. Whether or not Saudi production being dumped into the market will alleviate short- term price increases, the issue of continual market fluctuation is still a long-term and serious issue to our nation’s security.

Like all previous decades, the Administration and U.S. policy makers are doing nothing to solve this perpetual issue. In fact, the President and his cabinet are supporting and continuing the same faulty energy policy. At a White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness meeting, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner noted that there are substantial reserves across world economies, and that this excess capacity would help economies cope with disruptions. President Obama echoed his remarks by saying, “We actually think that we’ll be able to ride out the Libya situation and it will stabilize.”

Instead of protecting ourselves from economic disaster and increasing energy production, the Administration continues to prohibit access to nearly 99.9% of our nation’s energy reserves. With the continued de facto moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico and federal policies limiting development on most federal lands, our country now has the largest prohibition to natural resource exploration in the world.

The only way to solidify our energy security and break the chains of foreign energy dependency is to expand and increase our domestic oil and gas production. Echoing the words of Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, “Every single additional barrel of oil produced in America is one barrel fewer that we need to import — and as we produce more at home, we employ American workers and produce revenues for all Americans.”

Don Briggs is president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.