From alternative resource projects to the Keystone XL pipeline, energy proposals from both political parties often fail for lack of bipartisan support. Consequently, a party usually needs to control both houses of Congress before such proposals can be enacted. But leaders of Securing America’s Future Energy, a nonpartisan advocacy group, hope to break this stalemate with an approach they believe could receive support from Democrats and Republicans alike.
The SAFE proposal would allow oil and gas extraction on some federal lands, and also help develop alternative energy sources. “As we open up new federal lands for new drilling, we need to divert some of that new revenue to research and development to accelerate the use of some of these alternatives,” said Ken Blackwell, a senior adviser to SAFE and former Ohio Secretary of State.
“We’ve got the potential that no nation in the world has ever experienced — and that is to have more natural resources in terms of our petroleum reserves, our natural gas reserves and our coal reserves,” said retired Gen. James Conway, a member of SAFE’s Energy Security Leadership Council. “And it calls out for a national strategic energy plan.”
The leadership council is trying to build bipartisan support for SAFE’s energy plan by working with corporate executives and retired military leaders, including Coca-Cola CEO Steve Cahillane, FedEx CEO Fred Smith and retired Marine Corps Gen. P.X. Kelley.
Conway believes the research and development funds should go mainly to laboratories to avoid the stigma of government “picking winners and losers,” and because he sees laboratories as more suited to preparing new technologies for commercialization. “And then a free economy — a free market — takes over,” Conway said.
The biggest obstacle to the SAFE plan is the likelihood that critics will label the revenue shift to research and development as a new tax, but Conway and Blackwell insist it would be no such thing. “There’s some discussion still ongoing in the halls of Congress about how much [revenue would be collected], where would we open the lands and those types of things, but conceptually, you know, it’s probably a nonstarter to say, ‘We’re going to put a new tax on you to do this,’ ” Conway explained. “But if you have this idea that additional monies could be gained by opening up something that’s sitting fallow right now — then it’s a little more attractive.”
Conway and Blackwell are presently working mainly with Democrats in Congress to build support for the proposal because, they say, it is critically important that Democrats from oil-, gas- and coal-producing states support the plan.
American households spent, on average, $2,912 on gasoline in 2012. For the U.S. to become energy independent and free itself from OPEC, SAFE offers a reasonable compromise that can turn significant portions of the immense profits to be made in the near term on fossil fuels to advancing the nation down the road to a clean energy future.