Just a thought, but how great would it be if one of this fall’s presidential debates focused solely on energy issues?

Past presidential debates have discussed the economy and jobs, national security and foreign policy, and of course all of those are important. Yet, when you think about it, energy is the nexus where all come together.

Energy runs our economy, literally, and the quest for it supports millions of jobs and could create hundreds of thousands more. Our need for reliable, affordable energy figures prominently in national security and foreign policy decisions. An America that meets most or all of its energy needs here at home would be safer, its prosperity less vulnerable to geo-political developments.

So, when the people who decide the topics for this year’s presidential debates get together, maybe they might consider devoting one evening for a thorough energy discussion. Exelon’s James Connaughton, former senior energy and environmental policy advisor in the Bush administration, talking this week about energy as an election-year issue:  

“This is the first election in a long time where energy is in the top five list – not surprisingly because of the immediate connection to jobs and economic growth. In the past, when jobs and economic growth weren’t at the forefront, maybe we weren’t thinking about energy so much. But I’m amazed – both the Obama campaign and the Romney campaign, they’re spending a lot of time talking about energy and visions of energy.”

There’s plenty to talk about. This week API presented a series of platform recommendations to the two political parties that get to the heart of what America’s energy future could look like. The planks:

Greater domestic resource access

  • Open the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves for energy exploration and development, where more than 100 billion barrels of oil and nearly 480 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are believed to exist. Currently, 87 percent of our offshore areas are closed to exploration and development:

  • Open a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and parts of the Rocky Mountains to development, while lifting the drilling moratorium in New York.

Common Sense Regulation

  • Build a federal regulatory structure that’s transparent, open to input from all stakeholders and bases rules on sound science.
  • Develop a rule-making process that’s based on legitimate cost-benefit analysis and implementation timelines that consider economic impacts and resource availability.
  • Adopt an approach that accounts for the cumulative effect of multiple regulations, avoids unnecessary duplication and provides regulatory certainty.

Efficiency and Timeliness in Permitting

  • Approve the complete Keystone XL pipeline immediately.
  • Create a federal permitting process that encourages investment in U.S. offshore projects.
  • Increase federal lease sales and adopt pro-access processes to improve development on public lands.

As this chart shows, delays in government leasing and permitting are a contributor to the trend lines in oil and natural gas production in federal onshore and offshore areas:

Sustainable Energy Future

  • Commit to market-based development of new energy sources (instead of government picking winners and losers through the tax code).
  • End calls for special, punitive tax increases on the oil and natural gas industry.

API President and CEO Jack Gerard:

“A political and policy commitment to a developing our domestic oil and natural gas resources will provide not just energy security, but financial security for millions of Americans. … Through the Vote 4 Energy campaign, we have outlined our vision for a future where people and the economy benefit with hundreds of thousands of new jobs, increased investment in America and billions in new revenues for government while bolstering national security.”