Former Tennessee congressman Harold Ford wants a change in U.S. energy policy.
One bipartisan policy tradition is to deny Americans the use of our own resources. President George H.W. Bush took aggressive steps to keep off-limits vast supplies of oil and gas along the coasts of California and Florida. Since then, the build-up of restrictions, limitations and bans on drilling (onshore and off) have cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars while increasing our dependence on foreign sources of energy.
In the year since the Deepwater Horizon spill, the Obama administration has put in place what is effectively a permanent moratorium on deep water drilling. It stretched out the approval process for some Gulf-region drilling permits to more than nine months, lengths that former President Bill Clinton has called "ridiculous."
Then there's tax policy.
Ford, a Democrat and lately a professor at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service, seems an unlikely source of common sense, especially when you look at the nonsense coming out of the current Democratic leadership. But Ford more closely fits the "New Democrat" mold that was in its ascendancy during the Clinton administration, and his proposals merit consideration.
First, let's conduct a comprehensive review of existing policies, rules and restrictions and root out any that needlessly hamper energy production at home. Do the existing environmental rules, for example, accurately reflect the industry's technological advancements in the ability to safely recover oil and gas supplies?
Second, let's develop the skills we need to find new and better ways to recover domestic supplies of energy—and to develop next-generation fuels to secure the future. That means encouraging more students to study math, science and other disciplines this industry needs.
And third, let's stop demonizing Big Oil to score political points. It does nothing to encourage the new talent, new ideas, and new entrepreneurs who are most likely to make breakthroughs in new sources of energy.
Ford sees the 2012 presidential campaign as an opportunity to have a constructive debate on our national energy strategy. Hard to imagine Obama proposing anything constructive, though.