Monday, July 23 , 2018, 6:38 am | Fair 64º


Clark Vandeventer: U.S. Energy Solutions Would Generate More Jobs

Pursuing options at home not only would encourage economic growth but produce a cleaner environment

Unemployment is at 9.8 percent nationwide. Santa Barbara County hast lost 3,700 jobs in the past year and 6,700 jobs dating back to August 2007. Those numbers donʼt include those who have taken drastic reductions in pay, or the construction industry, where many are working minimal hours. In times such as these, we need leaders who will focus on three things: jobs, jobs and jobs.

Everything ought to be on the table. Yet we see the opposite happening in our community. Santa Barbara Councilman Das Williams, also a candidate for Assembly, has made discouraging jobs and economic growth on the South Central Coast a full-time job.

Clark Vandeventer
Clark Vandeventer

Maybe I find myself picking on Williams more than others because heʼs a friend on Facebook so I see his status updates, but whether heʼs campaigning against leases for offshore drilling or for tax hikes on business, he seems to have a special zeal for discouraging job growth. In reality, Williams is no different than Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, or much of the political establishment. French President Nicolas Sarkozy had to step in to tell President Barack Obama that while platitudes are nice, there is a real world called reality. Someone needs to say something similar to Williams, who like so many politicians seems to be incapable of aligning policy positions with the realities of our time.

Later this month, the Santa Barbara Technology and Industry Association will host an Economic Summit on the topic of the green economy. The Vandeventer Group, along with Noozhawk, is a co-sponsor of the discussion about how we can create public policy that will lead to economic growth on the South Central Coast and nationwide.

My friends on the right wouldn’t be the first you would expect to take a look at green stimulus to encourage economic growth, but in times such as these, practicality supersedes ideology. Itʼs time for my friends on the left to break the stranglehold of radical environmental special-interest groups and consider how tapping into our immense capacity to produce energy by Americans for Americans not only could unleash a massive economic sleeping giant, but it could be a net gain for the environment.

The vast majority of Americans want clean, cheap energy, and we want it produced by Americans for Americans. Incidentally, the one place on Earth Americans can obtain the cleanest, cheapest energy is right here at home.

While not a stand-alone answer, the first thing we must do is increase the number of offshore oil leases. Currently, only 15 percent of the available leases for drilling have been issued by the federal government. Opening up even part of the available leases could provide a steady flow of both oil and natural gas to the U.S. market and put Americans to work.

What is more is that this would be a net gain for the environment. Exploration and extraction of oil and natural gas off the outer continental shelf of the United States can be done in ways that keeps infrastructure out of sight — protecting our natural beauty — and environmentally friendly. Oil rigs are incredible statements of modern technology, often costing as much as $3 billion before a single drop of oil is pumped. When we drill here at home, they are highly regulated by U.S. environmental standards. It is a testament to both the technology and the rigs and the strict environmental standards that during the horrific days of Hurricane Katrina, not a single drop of oil spilled into the gulf.

On top of that, what can be environmentally friendly about import oil from every corner of the world to meet our energy needs? Or even worse, because of our lack of refineries, requiring that oil be shipped from the source, then to a refinery (often India or Mexico) and then finally being shipped to the United States? Our dependence on foreign oil not only means that jobs go elsewhere, but every 24 hours, about $2 billion of U.S. wealth is transferred to foreign powers. It happens not only when we fill up at the pump with gasoline, but when we pay our electric bill or plug in our electric cars.

T. Boone Pickens became a household name when gas prices peaked and he was suddenly running commercials talking about the largest transfer of wealth in human history: about $50 million a day to Russia, $150 million a day to Venezuela and $190 million a day to Saudi Arabia. We simply must decrease our dependence on foreign powers for energy.

However, in addition to decreasing the dependence on foreign powers for energy, we must decrease our dependence on oil. Oil is not the answer of the 21st century. We should tap into the power of oil available to us now, and doing so immediately will create jobs and reduce the cost of energy for millions of Americans, which will increase net disposable income. Remember, when Congress enacts public policy that increases the cost of goods and services, it is effectively a tax.

Oil is not the answer of the 21st century not only because of depleting supply — which is debatable — but because this dirty form of energy will not allow us to give our children and grandchildren the clean and beautiful world they deserve. So, what is the answer? Everything. By investing in these technologies today — through tough but reasonable oversight of existing energy options, permanent tax credits and even prize winnings awarded to private industry by the federal government — we can unleash a sleeping economic giant that will lead to jobs today and a cleaner environment tomorrow.

But we can’t simply say no more drilling for oil. If we could switch over the entire U.S. auto fleet to electric tomorrow, we wouldn’t be able to power the cars. The energy must come from somewhere. Solar, wind, hydrogen, clean coal, oil shale, biofuels and nuclear power should all be part of our energy future — and these are just the known sources of energy. I have no idea what sorts of energy solutions could possibly be developed should the government offer incentives for the development of clean energy produced by Americans for Americans.

First, we can’t continue to cripple ourselves by taking every option off the table. One incident 30 years ago on Three Mile Island has virtually shut down the nuclear power industry in America. There, when problems arose at a nuclear power facility, about 2 million people were exposed to radiation equivalent to about one-sixth of a full set of chest X-rays. In the 30 years since Three Mile Island, Japan has built 40 nuclear power plants, and the French have built 56. If the United States produced as much nuclear power as France, there would be 2.2 billion fewer tons of carbon emissions. Nuclear gives us more power with less emissions.

But the same is true of oil shale and clean coal, and the United States has as much of both of these as Saudi Arabia has oil. The technology is there to do these things very cleanly — very much in line with a 21st-century standard of environmental responsibility. Yet in 2007, 81 percent of all leases issued for energy exploration and extraction in the Rockies were challenged in court.

Taking those and other options off the table means three things: Americans lose jobs, pay more for energy and transfer that wealth to foreign powers — often nations that hate us. It’s bad for the environment because energy we don’t produce in the United States to our standards is produced and imported from elsewhere by standards far below our own. China, which is building one coal plant a week, is blanketed in thick smog. On some days, as much as 25 percent of the air pollutants over Los Angeles originated in China. By passing the buck on energy solutions, we aren’t being a friend of the environment.

However, passing the buck on energy solutions seems to be par for the course. Currently, alternative energies are not as cheap as energy sources the industrial world has come to depend on. Conventional thinking in Washington, then, is to tax all current forms of energy to make them as expensive as alternative forms. It is a tax increase on all Americans, some of whom could see utility rates triple if the cap-and-trade bill passes.

You donʼt encourage one of your children to do better by holding back the other. Instead, you create an environment that fosters success for the one less developed. Developing technologies could benefit through tax incentives. The viability of solar power will become real not when fossil fuels are taxed and regulated, but when the government creates tax credits to encourage growth in the industry. Despite the fact that there have been some tax incentives in place for years, only about 1 percent of our energy in the United States comes from the sun. We clearly need to do more to provide incentives for additional solar energy. It doesn’t have to be limited to the federal level. Local governments, particularly those in the Southwest and in places that enjoy year-round sunshine, could act on a local level to encourage increased solar power through tax incentives.

Yet, perhaps the greatest potential lies in imagination and innovation of Americans. The government can tap into it by sponsoring energy contests. Donʼt ask the Department of Energy to develop clean, renewable energy. Thatʼs not what it does. But the Department of Energy can create policies that could lead to tremendous breakthroughs. Set the perimeters — whatever they are — and let the contest begin.

We want clean, renewable energy that meets specific standards, and offer whatever it takes — $1 billion tax free — to whoever can meet the goal. Can you imagine the private funding that would suddenly pour in to the most advanced, cutting-edge innovators in the field of clean, renewable energy? We would have clean, renewable energy, and taxpayers would be paying only for a finished product, not funding research with an ambivalent end.

When you consider the options in oil, clean coal, oil shale, nuclear, wind, biofuels and solar (I didn’t even mention hydrogen, hydro power or natural gas), you begin to realize that the U.S. energy options are tremendous. Millions of jobs are just waiting to be created. Congress only needs to act.

You hear less grumbling today about gas prices than you hear about health care, but our energy reality is no different today than it was a year ago or two years ago — or 10 years ago, for that matter. The time to act is now. We can free America from the grips of foreign powers and put Americans to work. While doing so, weʼll create sustainable economic growth and a cleaner world.

We don’t need to choose between the environment or prosperity. We can have both.

— Clark Vandeventer is a social entrepreneur and is the founder and chairman of The Vandeventer Group. He’s committed to developing practical ideas that make government work and make government work for us. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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