As recently as 2011, members of Congress were worried about America’s “increasing reliance on hostile countries for energy.” Now, there's a lesson in how quickly things change.
In less than a decade, the nation’s energy situation has been altered so dramatically as to be unrecognizable. Not long ago, America was in abject and needless dependency on foreign oil, importing 64 percent of what it consumed as recently as 2007. Today, the nation produces more than 76 percent of what it consumes. It leads the world in the production of petroleum liquids. Its oil exports have gone from zero to more than 2 million barrels a day in just a few years.
President Trump has taken measures recently to take advantage of our growing dominance in world energy production. His Interior Department is moving to allow offshore drilling in many regions previously off limits. He has also killed an Obama-era rule that would have imposed unjustifiable costs on people fracking for oil on federal lands.
Increased oil production will help low-income consumers and people looking for skilled jobs in the economy of the next two decades. It might also help calm turbulent regions of the world by reducing the flow of petrodollars to terrorists and cutting the power that hostile regimes have over life in this country.
It will modestly help America rectify trade imbalances, against which Trump rails. It will also reduce the federal deficit, as Uncle Sam collects the leases of oil drilled on public lands and the taxes paid by thousands of new hires in the oil industry.
Trump is not only right to get his administration out of the way of oil development, but is also doing it just at the right moment. We know that the U.S. and all other nations need oil and will for the foreseeable future. But it is also an unspoken inevitability that humans will not use oil forever in the amounts they use it today.
The technological advances that will someday move us from oil to a cheaper and cleaner alternative are not right around the corner. But they will come, and this is something oil companies already anticipate. That’s why this is the moment to exploit available resources that will be less in demand someday.
There is a limited window in which America can unlock its wealth and power through the production and export of as much oil as possible. It would be a dereliction for the federal government, out of misguided concern about environmental problems that it cannot solve, to let the Saudi royal family, the Iranian mullahs, and Russia’s kleptocracy make the most money from selling the most oil.
Beyond the fracking regulations and the offshore drilling, Trump has, by signing the tax reform bill, opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration. For nearly 40 years, the Left needlessly obstructed this move, arguing, among other things, that it wasn’t worth opening up ANWR because it would take 10 years for its oil to reach consumers. The usefulness or otherwise of Alaskan oil will now be decided by market forces, which is to say by everyone, rather than by the whim, posturing, and ignorance of politicians in Washington.
That is a hopeful development for a happy new year.