Secretary of Energy Steven Chu stumbled through congressional testimony the week before last, backtracking from a plotted path to higher gas prices. Meanwhile in Boston, thousands were without power and patience during a multi-day blackout.
Cars other than the subsidized-yet-shelved Chevy Volt require more than battery electricity to run, relying on recovered, distilled, and blended petroleum. An unbeknownst distinction, oil is a small part of electricity generation for home use, so much so that water dams outgenerate oil fivefold today. Identifying and leveraging oil supply is to our advantage, albeit with little effect on the electricity side of energy production and use. Americans demand more and cheaper energy in different forms for different applications, as well as concomitant infrastructure, security, and jobs.
At the pump, New Englanders pay for the privilege of employment extraordinarily, with some of the nation’s longest average commutes. Granite tough and Yankee frugal we may be, we do enjoy home heating oil. With the stroke of a pen, the president can open East coast offshore drilling, authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and capture idle Alaskan crude. These three initiatives would access and make market-available over two million barrels of oil, according to the Consumer Energy Alliance. In so doing, the administration could effect lower rates and/or replace or offset imports from the Middle East.
As the middle classes of China and India swell, there are more people consuming more like Americans, both in terms of food and creature-comfort appliances. Increased demand from 2.5 billion Chinese and Indian citizens and from other emerging market countries necessitates increased supply just to maintain cost. Most of the electricity in the U.S. grid that supports our plug-in devices comes from a natural source, but one that is yucky, passé, and maybe “wrong” to the Left—coal. Even Chu’s Energy Department forecasts increased American energy consumption over the next decade, not austerity, with a greater proportional reliance on coal.
The Tea Party, as stewards of and advocates for an America of ever better next generations, stands to be a receptive, supportive constituency for energy exploration and innovation. In 2008, “Drill, baby, drill” was the rock ‘n’ roll and soul, loud and proud, confident and fun slogan popularized through the Republican National Convention and vice presidential debate. The same year, Newt Gingrich penned “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less,” which crystallized into his plan for $2.50 a gallon gas in this presidential cycle. More energy and more energy sources are transpartisan inclinations, if not aspirations.
There likely exists a silent majority for renewed development of nuclear-derived electricity. The Tea Party might vocalize and mobilize on this front upon a shaming spark, such as a campaign of comparison to inform them about France’s nuclear outperformance of the United States. Power is profit. Power is patriotic. Admittedly, there is not as of yet discernible activism or popular coalescing for nuclear power generally or relicensing of the Seabrook Station plant in particular locally. Last month, Secretary Chu toured Plant Vogtle in Georgia, the first U.S. plant to earn approval for nuclear reactor construction in more than three decades. Will New Hampshire be next in the nation?
Government-picked winners (e.g., the Volt, Solyndra) and losers (e.g., offshore drilling, natural gas, nuclear) are losing propositions. Let’s insist the government leave the “rigging” to the private energy sector and open up American production.
Andrew Hemingway is on the national policy and communications staff of Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign. Alex Talcott is the principal of Vaura Consulting LLC and an adjunct instructor at Newbury College.