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Let’s focus energy policy on lifting people up
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Energy is so thoroughly woven into our daily lives that few ever question whether it will be there, or where it comes from. Oil-based products are likely the first thing you touch at the beginning and end of each day, whether it is your alarm clock, cellphone, or even the toothpaste and toothbrush you use to brush your teeth. As a key component in heart valves, seat belts, helmets, life vests, and even Kevlar, petroleum is saving tens of thousands of lives daily. Furthermore, oil and gas are key components in many medicines and antibiotics such as antiseptics, antihistamines, aspirin, and sulfa drugs.

The oil and gas industry has done such a good job of creating abundant, affordable, always-available energy that the world takes it for granted. Because energy is so reliable and available, some think we no longer require it. We encounter this paradox anytime we hear from those who want to end oil and gas production but still want to benefit from oil and gas based materials and fuels.

What Americans expect and deserve are the facts. And the fact is, recent history has disproved the false premise that economic growth and significant increases in energy production must, necessarily, come at the expense of environmental improvement. 

Today, the U.S. is not only the world leader in energy production, but we have some of the cleanest air in the world. From 1970-2017, the six major pollutants monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have plunged 73%, while the U.S. economy grew by 60%. EPA Data also shows that from 2011 to 2017, methane emissions from oil and natural gas production in the U.S. decreased by 24%. The oil and natural gas industry has proven that over the long-term, we can lead the world in energy production and environmental stewardship.

What would it mean for consumers, the economy, and future job creation if we substantially limited exploration, development, and use of fossil fuels in America’s energy supply mix? A recent study by the Energy Information Administration indicates the average American family would see their energy costs increase by $4,550 per year. It could mean a cumulative loss of $11.8 trillion in the nation’s GDP and the loss of 6 million jobs. Recent studies indicate that if the U.S. eliminated all CO2 emissions immediately, it would avert 0.07 degrees of warming by 2050. If Kansas alone eliminated all CO2 emissions, it would avert 0.001 degrees of warming by 2050. How many lost jobs is that worth?

The U.S. has a unique opportunity to show the world how energy abundance can be used as a positive force to lift people up, which is different than a zero-emissions world. We should work to ensure more people have access to safe, affordable, and reliable energy. Because to rise out of poverty and enjoy health and safety, people need more energy, not less.

We should set aside the acrimony and division that has marked too much of past energy policy discussions and work together as one nation on a positive forward-looking energy future based on the understanding that our nation’s best energy future can only be achieved through a true all-of-the-above energy strategy.