The once-unimaginable is now a reality: Last year, the United States became the top oil producer in the world.
For the first time in over 40 years, America “likely surpassed” Russian oil production this past summer, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The United States outpaced Saudi Arabia’s oil output at the beginning of 2018.
To keep the United States on top, lawmakers need to support pro-growth energy policies that fuel energy dominance.
It’s difficult to overstate how unlikely the prospect of American energy independence seemed just a couple of decades ago. Back in 1973, Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries radically restricted our oil imports in retaliation for America’s support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War.
The OPEC embargo quadrupled the price of oil, forcing the American government to tightly ration fuel and forcing drivers to wait in long lines to fill up. The embargo severely handicapped the American economy.
Putting The ’70s Behind Us
After that, America officially committed itself to achieving energy independence, but our domestic oil and gas industry simply didn’t have the production capacity to make good on that ambition.
But then, the birth of a technological miracle: hydraulic fracturing. Commonly known as “fracking,” this technique involves injecting a high-pressure mixture of water and chemicals into deep underground rock formations, breaking up the formation and releasing the embedded oil and gas.
Fracking enabled developers to tap into vast underground oil and gas reserves previously assumed unreachable.
This launched an American energy renaissance. Fracking has made America the top natural gas producer in the world. And it is powering an unprecedented expansion in our oil production. The EIA estimates that America produced 10.9 million barrels of oil a day in August, compared to Russia’s 10.8 billion.
Our energy exports will have profound geopolitical benefits. Right now, Russia is using its huge energy wealth to undermine America’s interests abroad, primarily by funneling oil to prop up regimes opposed to U.S. interests, such as Venezuela and North Korea.
Energy Independence = Geopolitical Clout
America could use its own exports to counteract this pressure. Countries currently dependent on Russian imports, such as Ukraine, could wean themselves off, migrate to American oil and gas, and liberate themselves from undue Russian influence.
Such energy independence would cement key diplomatic relationships and beat back Russian aggression.
Reaping these rewards will require vigilance from government officials. Energy independence is likely, but not guaranteed.
Whatever other issues the White House may be facing, on energy the Trump administration is on the right track. Since taking office, President Donald Trump has racked up an impressive record of energy deregulation, targeting and eliminating a vast array of economy-killing rules imposed by President Obama.
And officials have explicitly framed these efforts as steps toward an energy-independent future; a 2017 executive order rightly noted that the “prudent development of these natural resources is essential to ensuring the Nation’s geopolitical security.”
Having lost in electoral politics, activists have turned to the courts, firing off frivolous lawsuits to gum up new energy projects and slow down production expansion.
Environmental nonprofit NRDC, for example, has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration “about every eight days,” according to the organization’s litigation director. NRDC has taken issue with the administration’s plans to open up oil and gas leases in federal waters and remove redundant Obama-era methane rules.
Green activist gambits must fail. American energy independence is not predestined. Independence depends on thoughtful leadership that rejects any attempts by environmental extremists to sabotage energy development and the immense geopolitical benefits it entails.
- Fuller is executive director of Principles That Matter, a Colorado-based organization. It is committed to advancing the principles of a free market, limited government, and individual liberty through research and education on public policy issues.
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Author: TERRY JONES