Economists, politicians, and the public alike are questioning
the viability of the massive $787 billion stimulus signed into law.
In response, Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Senator David Vitter
(R-LA) recently introduced legislation that would create an
estimated 2 million jobs, increase gross domestic product $10
trillion over the next 30 years, and lower energy costs-all without
a huge expense to the taxpayer.
The No Cost Stimulus Act of 2009 would do this by expanding
domestic energy supply and streamlining burdensome, unnecessary
environmental review processes that have placed a stranglehold on
access to reliable U.S. energy sources for decades.
Last July, President Bush rescinded White House restrictions on
energy leasing in 85 percent of America's territorial waters.
Overlapping congressional restrictions were allowed to lapse last
October. Consequently, nearly all of our federally controlled
waters are now open for energy leasing.
The Department of the Interior (DOI), which handles offshore
energy leasing, then took the first step toward making this energy
available in January 2009 by publishing its proposal for a
five-year leasing plan for 2010-2015. An estimated 19 billion
barrels of oil-nearly 30 years of current imports from Saudi
Arabia-as well as substantial natural gas reserves are estimated to
lie beneath these restricted areas. And it should be noted that
these initial estimates tend to be on the low side.
Despite wide public support for offshore drilling, the Obama
Administration is already backtracking on moving through the lease
proposal as expeditiously as possible. Secretary of the Interior Ken
Salazar extended the initial 60-day comment period to six months,
unnecessarily delaying the process of leasing offshore areas to
energy companies for drilling and access to domestic resources.
The No Cost Stimulus bill would expedite the environmental
review and lease sale process. Improved technologies have
drastically reduced the environmental impact and the probability of
oil spills, and while the Vitter-Bishop bill still includes an
environmental review process, it would reduce needless regulatory
red tape and opportunities for anti-energy activists to file
administrative appeals and lawsuits.
Opening Alaska's Arctic National
For the past few decades, the federal government has been a
hindrance rather than a help in expanding America's domestic energy
supply. Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is likely
the most infamous case. ANWR is the largest single untapped source
of American oil. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that it
contains 5.7-16 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil. Assuming
the middle of this range, ANWR could provide nearly a million
barrels per day, every day it is in operation, for several
This drilling would occur on only 2,000 acres of ANWR's 19
million-acre expanse and only during the time of year when the
ground is frozen. Wildlife migration typically occurs during
warmer periods, so drilling would not be disruptive to animals,
most notably caribou. Only an act of Congress can open up ANWR to
leasing for oil and gas production.
The No Cost Stimulus Act would allow exploration, development,
and production of oil and gas in the ANWR Coastal Plain. The
Vitter-Bishop bill would also ensure sales of the lease no later
than 22 months after the bill passes and limit the time to file
complaints to 90 days.
Furthermore, provisions in the bill would ensure that drilling
is performed in an environmentally sound manner by restricting the
amount of land impacted and sufficiently protecting wildlife. As
with offshore drilling, ANWR presents an opportunity to vastly
expand domestic energy sources while minimizing any environmental
Nuclear Power. While approximately 20 applications to
build more than 30 new nuclear reactors have been filed or are
being prepared, no permits have been issued, and no new plants have
begun construction. A primary reason for the hold up is the arduous
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission estimates that it needs a
minimum of 42 months to approve one new nuclear power plant. The No
Cost Stimulus bill would speed this up significantly by
streamlining the hearing and judicial review process for permitting
plants. This would compliment recent NRC efforts to speed its
process to certify new nuclear reactor designs from 20 to 12.5
Oil Shale. The amount of oil available through oil shale
is staggering. Some estimates have 1.2 trillion to 1.8 trillion
barrels of oil available in the Green River Formation. A
conservative estimate of 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil
from oil shale in the Green River Formation is three times greater
than the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately,
though, Secretary Salazar recently rescinded leasing plans for oil
shale development on federal land in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
The No Cost Stimulus bill would allow DOI to provide the
appropriate lease sales when the private sector deems oil shale
NEPA and Covered Energy Projects. It takes a federal
construction projects an average of 4.4 years to complete National
Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review. Consequently, there
is a high probability that the billions of dollars in
infrastructure spending recently passed in the stimulus bill will
not be spent until years after the economy has already recovered.
The No Cost Stimulus bill would place a 270-day time limit on NEPA
reviews, ensuring a quick review process for energy projects on
Backdoor Global Warming Policies
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pursuant to a 2007
Supreme Court decision, has initiated steps to bypass the
legislative process and regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the
Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act is ill-suited to address
global warming, and trying to do so would almost certainly unleash
a costly and impractical regulatory scheme that would ensnare all
manner of vehicles as well as a million or more businesses,
buildings, and farms. The Vitter-Bishop legislation would block
EPA's overreaching by excluding carbon dioxide, methane, and water
vapor from the list of pollutants.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been used as another
backdoor vehicle to reduce greenhouse gases. For example, if carbon
dioxide is the agent DOI blames for the warming that supposedly
shrinks ice and thus harms polar bears, then any activity producing
or using energy-building a new bridge in Alabama, opening a factory
or power plant in Arizona, expanding a dairy operation in New York,
constructing a school in Idaho-could invoke the Section 7
consultation process. Bottom line: Environmental activists could
use the ESA to hold up any of thousands of projects across the U.S.
The No Cost Stimulus would finally put an end to this by
prohibiting congressional consideration of ESA as a mechanism for
greenhouse gas regulations.
Sensible Energy Policy
An enormous amount of energy in a variety of forms exists in the
United States that, if developed and commercialized, would create
millions of sustainable jobs and largely benefit our overall
economy without accumulating massive debt. Unfortunately, all of
these projects are subject to burdensome regulation that needlessly
stall and discourage private investments. The No Cost Stimulus Act
of 2009 would fix this by opening up resources and streamlining
regulatory, environmental, and judicial review processes. It would
provide a real stimulus to the economy without huge costs to the
American taxpayer, unlike the stimulus package and other government
Nicolas D. Loris is a Research
Assistant and Ben
Lieberman is Senior Policy Analyst in Energy and the
Environment in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy
Studies at The Heritage Foundation.