The United States, the one true superpower in the world, has become a paper tiger. The nation is no longer guided by Teddy Roosevelt’s adage, “Walk softly and carry a big stick.” Rather our leaders bluster and make big promises, but they fail to deliver.

Tunisia releases the only captured suspect in the Benghazi murders, and despite promises to find and punish the perpetrators, the White House does nothing. America faces a huge budget problem, but Congress enacts only a stopgap measure and raises taxes.  A deranged man kills his mother to steal her legally-owned weapons, guns down elementary-school children, but Vice President Biden leads a committee that favors new curbs on gun ownership.

In each case, our leadership seems unwilling—or worse yet, afraid—to address the root problems of terrorism, the deficit, and mental illness. The result, as Virginia Rep. Frank Wolfe said in a recent interview about the Benghazi attack, America appears weak.

U.S. energy policy suffers from the same lack of political courage. For 40 years, America has lamented its dependence on foreign oil, but our political leaders have looked elsewhere for solutions. Rather than encourage development of U.S. oil—which would have been the simplest  and most direct solution—government has thrown taxpayer money at other forms of energy that are incapable of supplanting oil or competing in the marketplace.

The Obama Administration has followed these same failed policies by wasting billions of dollars on alternative energy companies such as Solyndra and electric car companies such as Fisker.  Early in January, the President also signed a bill to extend the wind energy Production Tax Credit for another year at the cost of more than $12 billion and provided financial incentives to the ethanol industry, encouraging it to turn more U.S. corn into fuel. The economy needs oil and natural gas, not government handouts to pet projects. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that oil and natural gas will supply 78 percent of the country’s energy demand in 2035.

Furthermore, with pro-development policies, the industry would create 1.4 million U.S. jobs and generate billions of dollars in tax revenues to pay down the deficit, according to a Wood Mackenzie analysis. The industry already supports 9.2 million U.S. workers and pays the government an estimated $86 million every day in taxes, royalties and fees.

The drilling industry also is applying American-made technologies to shale formations, making it possible to produce more domestic oil and natural gas than ever. The International Energy Agency says these new technologies including hydraulic fracturing could elevate the United States to the world’s largest oil producer before 2020, surpassing Saudi Arabia.

This means energy independence could be within our grasp, as long as it isn’t delayed or stopped by the politics of fear.

For the past couple of years, environmental activists have used scare tactics to frighten people about hydraulic fracturing, the process that creates tiny cracks in rock deep underground allowing oil and gas to flow up the wellbore. They say fracturing contaminates groundwater, although there is not one single confirmed case of groundwater contamination linked to fracturing operations. Not one.

Hydraulic fracturing has been used in more than 1.1 million U.S. wells during the past 60 years, and its use has been regulated very effectively by the states. Last year, however, the Obama Administration formed a task force of no fewer than 14 federal agencies to examine fracturing with the goal of imposing new federal regulations.

Also, the EPA is conducting a study on fracturing, which includes water-quality tests in three states. The agency says it has evidence of pollution in test wells in Wyoming, but scientists are casting doubt on EPA’s methodology. The U.S. Geological Survey conducted its own tests but was unable to replicate EPA’s results.

Unfounded fears and questionable science are a poor foundation for energy policy. The best way to fulfill the economy’s energy needs is to encourage oil and gas production. Let’s hope our elected officials have the requisite political courage.

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