On Saturday, September 14, explosions rocked oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. Attention quickly turned to Iran as the culprit behind the blasts, which cut Saudi oil production in half at the time.
Possible conflict between two of the Middle East’s major powers is a big news story. In another era, it would capture even more attention in the United States. Fortunately, technological innovation and smart energy policies have provided us with a measure of protection from these incidents.
Great strides in energy independence mean we are no longer so captive to events in the often-volatile Middle East.
If you were alive in the 1970s, you likely recall the energy crises consumers faced here, caused in part by Middle Eastern politics and production challenges in the United States. You may remember cars waiting in long lines for gasoline (I remember only being able to refuel my mother’s car on certain days of the week based on my license plate number) or President Carter asking Americans to turn down their thermostats in winter.
In 2011, as the nationwide average gas price hovered around $4 a gallon, President Obama said, “We can’t just drill our way out of the problem.”
Yet today, as AAA lists the national average gas price as $2.667 on September 23, we can see that domestic drilling did help solve the problem. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicate that in 2018, the United States was the world’s leading oil producer at 17.87 million barrels a day, 18 percent of the world’s total. Saudi Arabia followed with 12.42 million barrels per day and a 12 percent share of total world production.
We are not just powering our own country through oil production; we are powering the world. As a CNN article noted only two days before the attack on the Saudi oil facilities, the United States in June overtook Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s top oil exporter. Although Saudi Arabia reclaimed the top spot for the next two months, we are in contention.
Oil is far from our only asset in energy. The United States hit a record high in natural gas production in 2018 and was a net exporter for the second year in a row. Before 2017, our country had not been a natural gas net exporter since 1957.
Because America did not follow Democrats down that path and instead focused on developing domestic sources of energy, we are much more secure from the shocks of the worldwide energy market.
Good energy policy also requires us not to rest on our laurels. Research and development allow us to find new potential sources of energy as well as get more out of the energy resources we already use.
Allowing domestic energy production to flourish and devoting resources to research have important implications in Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District as well as nationally.
“All of the above” energy policies supporting production mean the Federal Government does not smother coal under blankets of regulation. We saw the consequences of this during the Obama Administration. In contrast, I have championed, and the Trump Administration has implemented, the lifting of burdensome regulations from coal production. Although low natural gas prices have hindered coal’s resurgence, it remains a source of energy both domestically and internationally.
I have also supported domestic energy in the Ninth District through legislative efforts to streamline and accelerate licensing for hydroelectric projects and federal funding through the Abandoned Mine Land Pilot Program to build solar installations.
Research and development, including exciting projects at Virginia Tech, allow us to use more of what we already have in Southwest Virginia. For example, it has the potential to find new uses for coal.
I believe that without the right energy policies, the shock to the U.S. energy market of the attacks in Saudi Arabia would have been much more severe, with serious consequences for our national security as well as consumer pocketbooks.
Democrats in Congress nevertheless advocate policies that would restore hurdles to domestic energy production. Their Green New Deal would entirely suppress many of the energy sources that have propelled America to energy dominance.
The benefits of the energy self-sufficiency we enjoy today remind us why we should reject such an approach. Energy production in the United States has strengthened our security as well as our economy.
For questions, concerns, or comments, contact the Abingdon office at (276) 525-1405, the Christiansburg office at (540) 381-5671, the Washington office at (202) 225-3861, or via email at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.