Last week I had the honor of testifying before the House Natural Resources Committee on the impact domestic energy production has on conservation and energy security. The following is adapted from my oral testimony presented before the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, And Public Lands.
The Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) is an important resource that helps to preserve and to share America’s history and culture with present and future generations. Allocating money to rural communities, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, tribes, nationally significant preservation projects, and much more provides valuable resources to communities and helps to educate the public more broadly.
Revenues for the Historic Preservation Fund are derived from offshore oil and gas development. In addition to the jobs, economic gains, and energy security benefits from energy production on federal land and waters, the government revenues collected are a significant contributor to conservation efforts. Beyond the HPF, government receipts fund coastal restoration, outdoor recreation, and tackling the deferred maintenance backlog at America’s national parks.
Regrettably, in his first week in office, President Biden enacted a review of the federal oil and gas leasing program that became a de facto moratorium. For the first time in more than 40 years, the Interior Department will soon be without a five-year program for offshore oil and natural gas leasing.
Restricted access to offshore energy development would not only deliver an economic blow to Gulf coast economies, but it would also reduce funding for programs like the Historic Preservation Fund. According to a recent National Offshore Industries Association study, a delay in the five-year program could reduce government revenues by $1.5 billion per year on average and $27.8 billion through 2040.
Furthermore, if production shifts to private lands and to countries where the environmental standards are less rigorous, or higher natural gas prices extend the use of coal generation, the purported emissions reductions may be less than advertised or perhaps even higher.
The economy or the climate? Why not both?
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The reality is that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and high gas prices have brought energy affordability and energy security to the forefront of the political conversation. And I commend the Members for voicing their overwhelming bipartisan support to the Ukrainian people and for conveying their support for freedom and the rule of law.
The Biden administration’s deal to provide Europe with more liquefied natural gas exports is also an important commitment of support. But actions speak louder than words. Policy reforms should liberalize domestic energy markets for the benefit of American families to help our European allies by providing them with more energy choices. Diversification will be the key to weaning Europe off Russian natural gas dependence and ultimately stopping Russia from manipulating energy markets for geopolitical purposes. Those energy choices will likely be a combination of exported natural gas, new nuclear plants, and more renewable power, among other sources and technologies.
In the United States, that requires access to our abundance of natural resources and building more energy infrastructure. Policymakers should remove barriers to energy innovation and modernize regulations that curtail investment and needlessly lengthen permitting and construction timelines. Driving down costs and speeding up deployment will result in more jobs, more affordable energy, and higher levels of prosperity. The environmental outcome will be fewer emissions and more federal revenues for conservation and historic preservation.
And it will mean more energy choices for our European allies. Getting new energy supplies to the market isn’t going to happen overnight, but it can and should happen a lot faster. Given Russia’s recent decision to cut off natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, time is of the essence.
I appreciate the subcommittee’s dedication to the preservation of America’s landmarks, historic sites, and areas of cultural significance. And I commend the subcommittee for their unwavering support for the people of Ukraine. Capitalizing on America’s resource abundance and human ingenuity is a way to help with both. It is an opportunity to advance America’s economic, energy security, and environmental goals.