Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

US Energy Security and Its Impact on Foreign Policy

July 24, 2013

Washington Times

US Energy Security and Its Impact on Foreign Policy

Rep. Pete Olson

In the last five years, the American energy renaissance has transformed our nation from a beggar on the global energy stage to a titan. For our economy, the benefits seem never ending. For our national security, they are just beginning. Throughout the 20th century, US foreign policy was closely tied to our energy needs.  In the 1970s, Arab oil-producing countries imposed an oil boycott on America in retaliation to our military support for Israel in its war against Egypt and Syria. Americans were soon waiting in long lines at gas stations. Our reliance on foreign energy allowed other nations to wound our economy, exposing an Achilles’ heel in America’s ability to project power and influence.   Our dependence on unreliable foreign energy only escalated. By the middle of the 2000's, oil imports reached epic levels - nearly 11 million barrels per day. At the same time, US companies spent billions building facilities to import liquefied natural gas.  American energy dollars were being sent out of the country, often landing in the coffers of potential adversaries.

Fortunately, American innovation came to the rescue when the well-known and well-used process of hydraulic fracturing was meshed with the newer technology known as directional drilling. Directional drilling allows producers to send a drill-bit straight down and then turn 90 degrees to tap specific strata of fossil energy, often far from the surface drilling site.  Along with advancements in locating these resources, these technologies began unlocking over a century of previously unreachable reserves of American oil and gas - assets primarily under private land.  The result has slashed US crude oil imports to nearly seven million barrels per day - and falling. Imports from OPEC nations have slumped dramatically.  Equally remarkable has been the utter collapse in imports of natural gas from overseas. Since 2007, imports of liquefied gas have dropped by a remarkable 77%. The increase in our domestic natural gas supply has significantly reduced our reliance on energy suppliers like Egypt, Algeria and Nigeria – countries marked by political instability.

The American energy renaissance is creating wealth in our own backyard. Our ability to tap record amounts of oil shale has cut unemployment in North Dakota to 3.3%. That number looks like a typo in the era of the Obama economy. Parts of Ohio, hurt by losses in the manufacturing industry, have been revitalized. Drilling activity in Pennsylvania has brought in over $200 million in local revenue last year alone.  The economy of South Texas, historically a place with limited opportunities, now flourishes, and a generation that previously would have had little to hope for now commands high-paying skilled jobs supporting the rigs drilling the Eagle Ford shale. This paradigm shift means energy dollars stay in the US instead of heading off to unstable suppliers or hostile governments like Venezuela.  It will also transform our future national security and foreign policies. Our path to self-sufficiency will necessarily change our outlook and approach to the rest of the world.   We must further this revolution.  For example, the private sector is paving the way on a large scale - as long as the Obama Administration stays out of the way - to turn cheap and abundant natural gas into liquefied natural gas for export.  The Department of Energy has approved two export facilities and many more are waiting in line. These facilities will ship American gas overseas to allies like Japan, India and Eastern Europe, strengthening our alliances, giving those nations a better option for energy, and increasing our leverage with our common adversaries.   

An understanding of how this new era of American energy dominance will impact our foreign policy is only beginning to emerge. We know that only a decade ago, an embargo of Iranian oil by America's global partners would have been nearly impossible - they needed their oil too much. Now, US energy security has the power to offer alternatives to our allies and influence their interactions with Iran as well as other rogue regimes. Today, thanks in part to increases in US oil production, Iranian tankers sit in their ports while ships loaded with gasoline and diesel stream from the Gulf of Mexico headed for foreign ports.  The American energy renaissance has just begun and we are writing the next great chapter in our nation's history.  It is a narrative that, if allowed to flourish, can mean energy security, national security, and economic growth and opportunity.  American energy security has the capacity to fundamentally transform how we interact with our global partners and less friendly nations. We should begin to study and better understand what our future global outlook and role will be.   A clear perception of an energy self-sufficient America will allow us to better consider and appreciate what our approach to, and engagement with, the rest of the world will be.