API President and CEO Jack Gerard’s annual State of American Energy address put surging U.S. oil and natural gas production into context, saying that it has created a generational opportunity to secure this country’s energy future – an opportunity that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. Gerard:

“Our future is ultimately of our own design. … We will decide if America continues its march toward global energy leadership – a once-in-a-generation choice – or remains content to play a supporting role in the global energy market. We can erase what for decades has been America’s greatest economic vulnerability – our dependence on energy sources from other continents, particularly from less stable and friendly nations – and fundamentally alter the geopolitical landscape for decades to come, all while providing a much needed boost to our economy. But only if we get our energy policy right.”

If. Small word, yet an enormous question concerning U.S. energy.

America’s energy potential is as vast as its deposits of oil- and natural gas-bearing shale. It is as promising as advanced hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies, a skilled energy industry workforce and deep investment capacity will allow.

Yet, America must choose to unleash its energy wealth. Policymakers must choose the right paths right now to ensure increased development of the domestic reserves that hold the key to a safe, secure future. (Click here to read and download API's State of American Energy report.) A video clip from Gerard’s speech, outlining the stakes in choosing the right energy policies:

If we get it right. As Gerard detailed, we’re already seeing the breadth and benefits of America’s energy renaissance:

  • The U.S. now is the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas, thanks to shale and fracking. North Dakota as a snapshot: producing more than 1 million barrels of oil per day – if the state were a country it would rank among the top 20 oil producers in the world.
  • U.S. production of crude and natural gas liquids has increased by more than 2 million barrels a day in the past two years, an increase of nearly 27 percent.
  • Skyrocketing shale natural gas production, growing from just 1 percent of total U.S. supply in 2001 to 20 percent in 2010 and projected to reach 45 percent in 2035.
  • In economic terms, oil and natural gas development has led to job creation, broad stimulus and the generation of revenue for governments.
  • Environmentally, increased natural gas production and use has dropped CO2 emissions to their lowest level in nearly 20 years.

If we get it right. We need policies that allow increased access to domestic reserves, regulatory and permitting policies that properly manage development without needlessly chilling it and visionary leadership that, as Gerard said, aligns “our nation’s political science with our geologic science.” Gerard:

“If we are to continue our nation’s current positive energy production trends, we must implement energy policies based on current reality and our potential as an energy leader, not the outdated political ideology of the professional environmental fringe or political dilettantes. American energy policy should reflect the reality that someone will benefit from helping to meet the world’s ever-growing need for energy.”

The Keystone XL pipeline, the federal review of which passed the five-year mark last fall, is instructive. The Keystone XL continues to languish in Washington, an example of what politics can do to a job-creating, energy-delivering project:

The Keystone XL “is a good example of why policy matters and how dogmatic adherence to political ideology can trump economic reality to the detriment of millions of hard-working middle class families. The fact is, with a single word, yes, the president could allow this vital infrastructure project – paid for by the private sector and without a dime of taxpayer money – to move forward and provide tens  of thousands of good paying jobs for many years to come. Broadly, the Keystone XL pipeline debate highlights the need to invest in our nation’s infrastructure today to support job creation, economic growth and increased government revenue. … There is really only one answer to this (Keystone XL) conversation if it’s based on fact, if it’s based on science and if it’s based on reality. And that answer is yes.”

In a subsequent press conference, Gerard addressed the need for effective permitting of infrastructure projects:

“If it takes us five years, if it takes us an extended of period of time, because of political considerations, we will limit our ability to achieve our potential as a nation, and frankly discourage the investment that is lining the shores of this country to come here, to develop these vast resources to put our people to work. It couldn’t happen at a better time, now is the time to do it. We need to look at all regulations and law to bring about an affirmative final decision on these processes and on these permits.”

These are the stakes. America has a fantastic opportunity to seize control of its energy future – and its future overall – with the right policy choices right now. As Gerard noted, energy is neither a Republican nor a Democratic issue, “it is an American prosperity and leadership issue.” Gerard:

“We are poised to achieve something big that perhaps could be the biggest thing of our century if we do it well and we do it right. … We in this country no longer live in an era of scarcity. We live in an era of abundance. The question is, what will we do with that?”