We Must Continue to Invest in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Power

Testimony Before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources

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Chairman Lamborn, Ranking Member Holt, and members of the subcommittee, thank you very much for the opportunity to testify today on “America’s Onshore Energy Resources: Creating Jobs, Securing America, and Lowering Prices.”

Wind, solar, geothermal, efficiency, and other forms of clean energy creates jobs—three times more per dollar of investment compared to oil and gas. These sources are secure—the wind and sun aren’t subject to human disruption. Energy efficiency saves families and businesses money. And renewable fuels are free and shielded from price spikes that occur when fossil-fuel prices rise.

Domestic oil and natural gas are valuable and important commodities. But their production creates fewer jobs compared to renewables. They heavily contribute to climate change, which Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III recently said will “cripple the security environment.” They are vulnerable to sudden price volatility, like the high oil and gasoline prices of this winter. And producing more oil won’t lower gasoline prices.

It is imperative that we continue to invest in energy efficiency and renewable power for jobs, security, and family budgets.

Renewable energy projects on public lands create jobs and improve public health

Clean energy is a critical part of the economy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “In 2010, 3.1 million jobs in the United States were … green goods and services.” The Christian Science Monitor also reported that “the clean-economy sector … includes 2.7 million jobs. The oil and gas industry … has 2.4 million jobs.” Wind and solar industries in particular employ nearly 200,000 people and are expected to grow to nearly 800,000 jobs by 2030.

There are also permits for projects with more than 11,000 megawatts of renewable electricity generation for public lands, enough to power at least 3.8 million homes.These projects will support 13,500 jobs. What’s more, a CAP analysis determined that appropriate public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah could support 34,399 megawatts of wind, solar, and geothermal electricity, enough to power all the homes in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. These projects would create an estimated 34,399 jobs.

Expansion of domestic oil production in protected lands and waters will not lower gasoline prices

Domestic oil production has increased by 45 percent since 2008. More production here, however, will not lower oil and gasoline prices. Richard Newell, then-head of the Energy Information Administration, testified before Congress, saying, “We do not project additional volumes of oil that could flow from greater access to oil resources on Federal lands to have a large impact on prices given the globally integrated nature of the world oil market.”

In 2012 the Associated Press also tested whether more U.S. drilling would lower gasoline prices. After analyzing 36 years of data, AP found “No statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump.”

Additionally, the claims about the decline of oil production from federal lands and waters under the Obama administration are incorrect. The Congressional Research Service reports oil production from federally owned places was higher in every one of the past four years compared to 2008.

In 2012 Adam Sieminski, head of the Energy Information Administration, testified before the House that the growth in oil-and-gas production from private lands is because shale basins are primarily outside federal lands.

Sequester cuts will slow the production of oil and gas from federal lands and waters

The Congressional Research Service found that the Department of the Interior’s approval time “application for drilling permits” for federal areas has been cut by 44 percent under the current administration. The budget sequester, however, will undo this progress. The Interior Department says sequester cuts will delay reviews of 550 offshore exploration plans and 300 onshore oil and gas leases. Those concerned about the pace of federal approval for drilling permits for federal lands and waters ought to oppose the sequester budget cuts.

Climate-related extreme weather will continue to hurt energy production

Finally, we cannot talk about fossil-fuel production without mentioning climate change. The severe drought, heat wave, and storms in 2011 and 2012 interfered with oil-and-gas production and electricity generation. As climate-related extreme weather increases in frequency or severity, damage or interference with energy production will only grow. We need to either act now to reduce carbon pollution that feeds climate change or prepare for worse disruptions.

Thank you.

Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Thanks to Mari Hernandez, Research Associate, and Jackie Weidman, Special Assistant, on the Energy Policy team of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.