This means that we must pursue an approach that reduces the oil intensity of our economy, even as we increase domestic supply. America’s ability to increase traditional domestic oil and gas supplies and use emerging technologies to create new energy sources can grow dramatically if we make increased domestic production a sustained national priority. In particular, recent advancements in shale gas production and the prospect of cleaner electricity generation, coupled with plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, could allow us to dramatically decrease U.S. oil intensity.
But our energy security challenges and opportunities extend well beyond oil reliance. As the tragedy in Japan and ambitions in Iran remind us, the future for nuclear power remains uncertain. Increased public concern about the safety of facilities and the potential that civilian power programs will be used to mask weapons proliferation must be addressed. At the same time, in a foreboding development, growing nuclear power development in China and elsewhere raises new questions about the extent to which U.S. security and influence will be undermined if we relinquish our leadership in civilian nuclear technology.
Meanwhile, developed and developing countries are pursuing aggressive energy security strategies of their own, by both bidding up key resource prices and by subsidizing domestic energy industry, policies that will challenge American competitiveness.
For all of these reasons, we must aggressively pursue policy approaches that emphasize national and economic security in measurable ways. Against the backdrop of unsustainable national debt, however, we recognize the necessity of targeted, limited and strategic investments. We believe that many current energy programs and subsidies are inefficient, presenting the opportunity for savings and revitalization. Still, we share the view that investment in new energy technologies and security are so central to American interests that they must be a budgetary and policy priority.
Ours is an era of remarkable change around the globe — much of it hopeful, some threatening. It has been 38 years since the Arab oil embargo awakened our nation to the dangers of oil dependence. Despite the full acknowledgement of our vulnerabilities by each of our past eight presidents, from Richard Nixon to Obama, we have failed to act. Now we are running out of time.
Just as we effectively responded to the challenges of the Cold War, the space race, globalization and terrorism, so too we must unify as a nation in a bipartisan manner around this new era for energy security.
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) are senior fellows at the Bipartisan Policy Center.