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As Gas Prices Rise, Is It Time to 'Drill, Baby, Drill'?

With unrest and turmoil in oil-producing Middle East and North African countries upon which America heavily relies for our domestic oil consumption and with gas prices inching toward $4.00 a gallon, now is the time to drastically increase America’s own oil production.

Even before the Middle East and North African government meltdowns, many experts were predicting $4 a gallon gas in 2011 and $5 a gallon gas in 2012.

How will the unrest in Libya, for instance, affect world gas prices? Well, although the United States does not buy much oil from Libya...Europe does.

Should Libya cease crude production or serious limit it in the long run, Europeans and others would have to look elsewhere in the world market. More demand on less supply will naturally drive up the world price per barrel of oil. There are larger Middle Eastern producers of oil, however, that may soon be as politically and socially unstable as Libya is today, which gives great uncertainty to the world market for oil, which also creates a rise in pricing.

The former president of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister, has been already predicting $5 a gallon gas in 2012 long before the unrest in Middle East and North Africa.

He warned that the rising demand from developing countries like China and India is putting huge demands on the world’s supply of oil. The Chinese are scrapping their bikes for cars by the millions every month as their standard of living improves. 

Hofmeister also warns that the Obama administration's restriction of drilling permits for Gulf of Mexico deep-water production has made America even more dependent on foreign sources of oil. 

Additionally, Hofmeister says that if the U.S. government does free up domestic oil production from politically driven regulatory policies, then America will face a return to a 1970’s oil crisis, where oil shortages, rationing, and sky rocketing gas prices crippled the U.S. economy and consumer confidence.

Where does America get its oil from today? Here are the top 10 countries America taps for oil imports:

1. Canada
2. Mexico
3. Saudi Arabia
4. Venezuela
5. Nigeria
6. Angola
7. Iraq
8. Algeria
9. United Kingdom
10. Brazil

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, our net petroleum imports (imports minus exports) account for approximately 58 percent of our total petroleum consumption. About 50 percent of our petroleum imports are from countries in the Western Hemisphere, with 19 percent from countries in the Persian Gulf, and 18 percent from Africa and 13 percent from other regions.

In 1970 the U.S. imported approximately 24 percent of our oil and today we are approaching 60 percent and growing. At this rate it has been predicted that over the next 10 years America will pay over $10 trillion to foreign sources for our energy needs. U.S. Oil man T. Boone Pickens says this will amount to “the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind.” America is addicted to foreign oil, and many of our foreign and world suppliers of oil are either unfriendly to America or politically and socially unstable.

It is now in America’s vital national security and economic interests to become less dependent on foreign oil.

America consumes approximately 25 percent of the world’s daily demand for oil yet we represent just 4 percent of the world’s population. In a quickly developing world it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that America is in big trouble if we do not change our ways.

It is nice to say we need to wean America away from fossil fuels but that must be done over time. In the meantime, we must drastically increase our own domestic oil production, which means drilling and exploring on land and in the sea.

Our government’s fundamental charge is to head off a crisis not merely to respond to it.

Why is it OK for others to exploit their resources, but not acceptable for America to do so? Why are we content to pay others for oil at outrageous prices, but are unwilling to use our own resources for our own immediate needs?

Unless our government steps on the gas and exploits our own oil, gas, and coal production, America will suffer a double dip recession, or worse.

In an already weak economy, we need to act boldly and decisively to overcome adversity. Now is the time to be bold. Now is the time to lead.

If our country is serious about becoming energy independent and free from foreign sources of fossil fuel, then we also need to get serious about nuclear energy production. America should build -- within the next 15 years -- 200 nuclear power plants throughout our nation. 

We should also demand that Yucca Mountain be opened for storage as well as reprocessing. The average time for the permitting and construction of a nuclear power plant is between 8-10 years. The average life span of a nuclear power plant is 30+ years.

Think of the jobs that could be created and the costs that could be amortized over long periods of time to make nuclear power affordable. Think of all the jobs that would be created if America had a “gold rush” attitude toward domestic energy production, exploitation, and exploration.

“Drill baby drill” should be America’s mantra in helping to ease our dependence on foreign sources of oil as we seek to transition away from fossil fuels in our not to0 distant future.

Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion.