During the State of the Union address, President Trump placed the successes of his economic policies front and center. From historically low unemployment to rising worker wages, the economic strategy of the Trump administration has largely been a win for American families. As President Trump said, part of this amazing economic turnaround has been fueled by a renaissance of American energy production. Jobs, economic growth and affordable energy are unleashed with energy dominance. As President Trump readies his reelection campaign, he should double-down on his promise of a “golden era of American energy” and fight for expanded offshore energy access.
The U.S. is the top producer of oil and natural gas in the world; this achievement alone is a massive win for our families. Break throughs in American energy production have led to annual energy savings of $2,500 per family. Oil and natural gas and renewable energy jobs are providing economic opportunities to a tremendous number of Americans. And we should applaud our energy achievements, but also recognize that our nation is still essentially fighting for energy dominance with one hand tied behind its back as some elected officials try to stifle the growth.
Much of the nation’s energy resources are offshore; and they are still off limits to the communities that desperately need jobs and affordable energy the most. Ninety-four percent of the U.S. outer continental shelf — and more than 50 billion barrels of oil — are currently closed for oil and natural gas exploration and production.
Unfortunately levels of poverty exists in America and it disproportionally impacts African Americans. One in eight Americans are Black, yet African Americans make up one quarter of America’s poor population. In states like South Carolina and Georgia – states that could be big winners with new offshore access — the Black unemployment rate is 2.5 times the white unemployment rate.
In many areas of the country, energy poverty compounds the costs of bleak economic opportunities. A 2015 Department of Energy report found that 25 million American households skipped food and medicine to pay for energy, with 7 million reporting they did so every month. It’s because higher energy costs make everything more expensive to produce. It costs businesses more to keep the lights on, have energy-intensive factories running and more to ship products to retail.
And tapping our nation’s offshore resources can generate thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic contributions. Oil and natural gas jobs are stable, high paying and are accessible with a high school diploma and on the job training. In other words, offshore jobs can be an economic lifeline to African Americans who grew up in these communities.
It should not be lost that as President Trump pursues a strong U.S. energy portfolio, Democratic presidential hopefuls are taking the opposite approach. One by one, the Democratic front-runners have attacked, and even threated criminalization, of oil and natural gas production.
Trying to ban American oil and natural gas production is a disservice to our country. Candidates are willing to forgo economic and energy opportunities for Americans in favor of shipping American jobs and American dollars to countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia. Energy killing policies — as we have seen in California and Massachusetts — only outsource production to those countries that don’t share America’s commitment to environmental and safety standards.
As President Trump continues to fight for American workers, he should not forget about the economic boom offshore production can deliver. Offshore energy production provides the path forward to a better tomorrow that so many communities need.
Derrick Hollie is a political analyst and president of Reaching America, an organization addressing complex social issues affecting African American communities.