Compass: Military vets understand need for abundant, reliable energy supply

The good news today is that the United States is poised to become the world's leader in combined oil and gas production. The even better news is what that means for this nation.

For too many years, the United States has been forced to import far too much of the oil and gas we need to thrive as a nation. Those imports put this country at the mercy of the whims and political vagaries of people around the world who do not like us.

Only a few decades ago we learned the painful cost of not being energy independent -- long gas lines, shortages, economy-crippling costs. Our national security, our very future, depends in large part on energy and ready access to supply.

Military veterans understand that all too well. History in our lifetime reminds us that the need for oil spurred Japan to invade Southeast Asia and subsequently attack Pearl Harbor.

World War II in Europe revealed more examples of the very real consequences of fuel shortages. Germany's Erwin Rommel, the "Desert Fox," was defeated in North Africa when his tanks ran out of gas. Likewise, American Gen. George Patton had to delay his 3rd Army's advance into Germany to await fuel for his tanks.

The United States was a major exporter of fuel during WW II, supplying our allies with gasoline and oil. In addition, with access to abundant energy and resources, American factories produced much of the material used to fight and win the war.

The U.S. Lend Lease Program provided Russia alone with 85,000 trucks, 6,100 aircraft and 8,600 tanks. U.S. shipyards built 2,710 Liberty ships, each carrying the cargo equivalent of 100 railroad cars, which crossed the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, taking the war to the enemy.

All of that was fueled by American energy.

Military men and women have experienced firsthand other cultures that lack access to abundant and reliable energy. Access to -- and the production of -- oil and other energy sources are essential for our country to remain a leader among nations.

Now is the time for the Congress and the president to move forward on critical energy issues to keep this nation independent and secure. To do that, they must:

• Authorize the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which will move North American crude to existing refineries along the Gulf Coast and has the potential to end the need to purchase and rely on crude oil from the unstable Middle East

• Open offshore and onshore areas, now off-limits, and Alaska's Arctic regions to oil exploration and production

• Curb federal agencies' overreach in restrictive permitting practices for resource development

• Abandon efforts to create a carbon tax, which has substantial cost ramifications that will harm a broad base of the economy

• Amend the Renewal Fuel Standard that mandates ever-increasing amounts of ethanol in gasoline to a level that will harm many gasoline engines

• Let states continue to regulate hydraulic fracturing practices rather than trying to create a "one-size-fits-all" policy in Washington, D.C.

America's energy and economic security requires an adequate and stable supply of domestic oil and gas. We need a balanced approach to energy that does not pit one domestic resource against another.

Finally, America's energy and economic security will not be improved by imposing new taxes on energy production and use.

America's veterans know better than most that for this nation to remain free and prosperous, it must adopt sound energy policies to protect its security and future.

A retired U.S. Marine officer who served in Vietnam, George Wuerch also served on the Anchorage Assembly and was mayor of Anchorage from 2000 to 2003. He is currently Alaska chair of Vets4Energy, an advocacy group on energy issues. More at