Every day it's becoming clear to more and more Americans that our continued over reliance on foreign oil is not just an environmental disaster but an economic disaster for this country as well. People appreciate that while we will have great sources of renewable fuel down the road, we need something now. And what is available now and has been proven to be in great abundance in the United States is natural gas.
We are fortunate by virtue of geology, science, and technology to have the ability now to access natural gas from shale deposits that in the past were economically off limits. I think it's a tremendous opportunity. But we have to be smart enough to take advantage of that opportunity, by allowing the shale to be developed in a way that enables us to access the natural gas. Then we have to put in place policies that encourage Americans to use natural gas not just in power plants but to replace foreign oil as a transportation fuel for fleets and big trucks.
More than 30 states have proven natural gas reserves. One of the largest and most exciting recent discoveries is in the Marcellus Shale, which is primarily in Pennsylvania, New York, and the Northeast. The Marcellus creates a tremendous opportunity for economic growth in this region, plus it provides a dependable domestic source of clean natural gas for all Americans.
I want to address one other topic of crucial importance: the transfer of wealth out of this country. When we have to import not just billions but hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign oil every year, it hurts us from an economic standpoint, it hurts us in looking to the job opportunities for our children and the next generation, and it also makes us geopolitically vulnerable when enemies of the United States threaten to use oil as a political weapon.
No one recognizes the national security threat foreign oil poses to this country better than Boone Pickens. That's why the American Security Council Foundation honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Public Service last week. I chair Project Independence, the foundation's program to free our nation from its dependence on dangerous sources of foreign oil, and you don't have to look any further than Hugo Chavez to see why energy security is so important.
Chavez is a person who despises the United States and everything we stand for, and he wouldn't hesitate if he thought he could use Venezuelan oil to hurt our country. So it is certainly not just economically and environmentally intelligent, but it is the patriotic and right thing to do from the national security standpoint to develop policies that will enable us to achieve greater energy independence.
We're all concerned about our jobs in today's economy, but we also have to be intelligent about our environment going forward. If we can replace dirty fuels with clean fuels like natural gas, we win on numerous fronts. Natural gas is a domestic source. It helps our economy. And it is a very clean burning fuel. When we replace dirtier fuels with it, we will have cleaner air and less health problems.
So to me it's quite clear that, as Boone has been advocating, we use natural gas as an interim transition fuel for heavy vehicles instead of using diesel that pollutes and comes from foreign sources. Natural gas makes tremendous sense.