Offshore Energy: A Window Into America’s Economic and Strategic Future

Real Clear Energy | Jim Webb & Jim Nicholson | March 29, 2019

The first months of the 116th Congress and the run-up to the 2020 election cycle have featured a dramatic leftward turn in the Democratic Party on a wide array of issues – including energy.  Some presidential aspirants have even signed on to support the so-called “Green New Deal,” which proposes to completely eliminate the use of natural gas and oil in the American economy within the next decade.

Many of us with long government experience who for years have called for a bipartisan “all of the above” approach to national and global energy solutions can only shake our heads in wonderment at this recent drift toward uncertainty.  In the real world, the global demand for all forms of energy continues to grow dramatically as the economies in emerging markets expand. Here at home reliable projections indicate that natural gas and oil will supply an estimated 60 percent of U.S. energy needs in 2040, even under optimistic scenarios for the development of renewables.  

Energy security is a key element in our health as a country. Decades of recent experience demonstrate unequivocally that the level of our country’s energy independence has a measurable impact on our national security interests, as well as the stability and predictability of our national economy.  

That’s why the five-year offshore leasing program coming soon from the Department of the Interior is so important.  Expanding natural gas and oil exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf is critical to protect our strategic and economic future, even as we rightfully explore other energy alternatives. 

Since 1984, government policies have restricted even basic exploration in 94 percent of the federal areas offshore from our coastline – and we emphasize far offshore, because much of the activity would take place far from our precious beaches and environmental havens. These areas could prove a treasure trove of natural gas and oil reserves.  As anyone typing on a computer or talking on a cell phone can attest, the technological world is not the same as it was in 1984. And yet offshore energy policy has remained frozen in the past, even as technology has become more sophisticated and industry safety standards have become more rigorous.  

Read the full op-ed here.

Jim Webb is Former Secretary of the Navy and former Democratic Virginia Senator. Jim Nicholson is Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. They are National Chairs of Explore Offshore.