In 1977, President Jimmy Carter formally established the U.S. Department of Energy, with (among other things) the goal of making America energy independent.
The idea was that there’s an undeniable connection between our energy security and our national security. We’ve pursued that laudable goal in a variety of ways: the development of traditional fossil fuels, renewables such a solar and wind, and advances in technology such as compressed and liquefied natural gas along with hydraulic fracturing.
America’s energy independence is certainly an economic issue, but it’s also a national security concern with the highest degree of priority for the future prosperity of our children and subsequent generations. In addition, recent developments in U.S. oil exploration and production are providing us a unique opportunity to improve both our economic and national security.
Don’t get the connection between energy production and national security?
Well, consider what brought about the establishment of the Department of Energy: the oil crisis of the 1970s. Our dependence on foreign oil, predominantly from OPEC nations, caused serious damage to our economic vitality and diplomatic capabilities. Anyone old enough to remember long lines at gas pumps and the rationing that resulted would attest to how our import dependence affected our ability to negotiate and navigate serious international concerns.
Want a more recent example? Look no further than Vladimir Putin, who is able to reassert Russian dominance in Eastern Europe via overt coercion because he has his hand on the energy pipelines feeding his neighbors, neighbors he desires to control.
It isn’t too shocking a statement that the past five to seven years have seen a steady erosion of American superiority, in world affairs, in economic dominance, and in overall security. That much is pretty clear to anyone paying even a small degree of attention to international events.
However, we are in the midst of an energy renaissance unlike any in recent history, and that renaissance can catapult us back from trailing the pack to leading it. Oil prices have been at historic lows, and the push toward greater energy independence has sent OPEC nations scrambling to flood the market with cheap oil to thwart our push against reliance on foreign energy.
That’s no more evident than in the prairie of North Dakota, which touts 30-plus percent increases in GDP and more six-figure jobs per capita than Manhattan. That’s because of the benefits of energy exploration and production.
This revival is being curtailed by a bottleneck resulting from a 40-year old archaic regulation whose repeal would be a boost to domestic jobs, economic activity, and consumer value: the ban on the export of crude oil. This is one free market reform that makes both economic and political sense.
After years of red tape, major oil companies are now finally starting to be able to drill on Arctic leases. Those leases will generate additional output, and further our ability to rein in the side effects of dependence on foreign oil. By going a step further and allowing our domestic production to reach markets around the world, we can leverage the power of American innovation and free markets to improve both our economy and our security.
The president will be traveling to Alaska at the end of August for a conference with leaders who have a vested interest in the Arctic. The conference, aptly named GLACIER, would be an opportune time for the president to reiterate America’s commitment, as a global energy leader, to our arctic offshore oil and natural gas development strategy as a necessary course to fill the global demand for hydrocarbon energy for decades to come.
There was a time when a president could articulate a goal and mobilize a nation to achieve it. Think back to the seemingly unachievable: “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
We set that goal and we made it happen. We possess a once-in-a-generation chance to truly put our foot on the gas with respect to energy independence. Let’s not squander this opportunity.
Sal Nuzzo is the vice president of policy at The James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, Fla.