Opinion: What energy has to do with national security

Houma Today | Michael James Barton | March 7, 2019

This year, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel barred the Interior Department from moving forward with its offshore drilling plans during the federal government shutdown. According to his injunction, the department is prohibited “from taking action to promulgate permits ... or take any other official action regarding the pending permit applications for oil and gas surveys in the Atlantic.”

Hopefully, the ban will be lifted now that the shutdown is over. Right now, nearly 94 percent of offshore territories are off-limits to energy explorers.

Unlocking offshore resources would help not just energy companies, manufacturing workers, and drivers but every American that values national security.

Energy is a powerful geopolitical tool. Any move toward energy independence is also a move toward keeping our nation safe.

The last 15 years have ushered in an American energy renaissance. New technologies such as fracking and horizontal drilling have enabled developers to tap huge underground energy reserves, driving domestic production to unprecedented heights. We’re now the world’s top producer of both natural gas and oil.

That means the United States is now well on its way to achieving the once unthinkable: complete energy independence. Our net energy imports have fallen a remarkable 95 percent since 2008. Today, imports constitute just 19 percent of our total petroleum consumption -- a 50-year low.

This progress has had huge, largely underappreciated national security implications.

For starters, it’s made us less vulnerable to market manipulations by rogue regimes.

Infamously, back in the 1970s, the powerful cartel of Middle East oil producers known as “OPEC” artificial constricted its exports to damage the American economy. The gambit worked precisely as intended. America was heavily reliant on OPEC and the sudden shortage was economically catastrophic, stranding Americans all over the country in days-long waiting lines to fill up their tanks.

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