Becoming energy independent by developing our shale deposits would allow America to reduce her involvement in the Middle East while stimulating her economy and providing jobs for thousands of Americans.
During the oil crisis of the 1970s, America was crippled by OPEC efforts to shut off oil supplies in 1973 and 1979. Drivers faced long lines at gas stations and rationing as price controls exacerbated an already bad situation. President Carter warned Americans that world oil supplies were estimated to be exhausted within five years. Politicians demonized oil companies as the bad guys and Congress passed the Windfall Profits Tax to penalize Big Oil for what they considered to be excessive profits. Given the situation of price controls and punitive taxes, it is not surprising that oil companies slashed their exploration budgets and hunkered down to ride out the storm.
Fortunately, America wearied of President Carter’s incessant doom and gloom hopelessness and elected Ronald Reagan as his replacement in 1980. Reagan came into office optimistically vowing to turn America around and restore her to glory. Reagan fought for lower taxes and less regulation to free business from the heavy hand of government and restore the animal spirits of the market. Congress, ever the shrinking violet, insisted on phasing in tax cuts which forced America to endure two more years of deep recession while Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker’s tight monetary policy worked to bring interest rates down from their highs of 21%. Once everything was in place in 1983, the American economy rocketed into the longest peacetime expansion in American history with every segment of the American population benefiting from the rising tide which indeed lifted all boats.
Since the oil crises of the 1970s when the notion of energy independence entered into the political lexicon, it has remained the prominent political goal of every candidate running for office when discussing energy policy. Politicians pledge to work for energy independence, but do little about it upon entering office. The idea of being free from the threat of being over the barrel as OPEC and the Middle East had us back in the 70s is most appealing but impractical without the discovery of additional domestic supplies. The deregulation of the transportation industry begun under President Nixon and continued under Ford and Carter was expanded under President Reagan to include energy, culminating in Reagan’s repeal of the Windfall Profits Tax in 1988. Deregulation and lowered taxes stimulated the oil companies into reinvesting in oil exploration and the development of new drilling technologies.
Hydraulic fracturing is a drilling technology which has been around for decades. First used in the 1940s, the process involves the injection of a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals at high pressure into a wellbore to create fractures in the deep underground rock strata that act as conduits for the oil and gas deposits to flow into the wellbore. At depths of over ten thousand feet, there are massive layers of rock between these fractured wellbores and relatively shallow ground water sources typically residing a few hundred feet below the surface.
Environmental activists, never satisfied with any source of energy, have generated irrational fears over hydraulic fracturing in recent years with tales of groundwater contamination that have been debunked. These same environmentalists were promoting the use of natural gas only a few years before as an alternative to the development of additional nuclear power plants and accusing oil companies of refusing to search for additional natural gas deposits. This is a ludicrous proposition as oil companies are in the business of finding and developing energy sources to maximize their profits and increase the wealth of their shareholders, and any attempt to suppress the development of energy would stand in opposition to their mission. The price of energy serves as their only guide to decisions as to whether the expense of finding and developing energy sources is tenable.
The need for affordable energy has prompted America to increasingly involve herself in the affairs of the Mideast at the expense of blood and treasure to protect the free flow of oil around the world. The Mideast, divided into the Sunni and Shiite sects, has fought for millennia over the legitimacy of the Islamic prophet Mohammed’s legitimate successor. The discovery of oil wealth has only intensified this holy war as control of these riches is up for grabs, and these riches have allowed for the purchase of advanced weapons systems. Terrorism is the preferred political mechanism to adjudicate grievances with much of the hatred directed towards America and her unwanted presence in the region which is necessary to ensure the oil flows and the riches continue to accumulate.
America has fought three major wars in the Mideast to protect the oil supplies and punish terrorists allowed to operate with impunity in certain areas. Terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood are so powerfully entrenched they actually form political parties and hold power in certain areas blurring the line between terrorism and politics. Syria is currently engaged in a civil war with several terrorist groups including al-Qaeda fighting against the government of dictator Bashar al-Assad who is backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the terrorist group Hezbollah. Shia Hezbollah is aligned with Iran while Sunni Hamas is aligned with Saudi Arabia, and the Muslim Brotherhood, originally a Sunni group responsible for founding Hamas, has expanded to pan-Islamic cooperation for the advancement of Islam. There are a multitude of splinter groups and smaller factions whose only common factor is a hatred of America.
President Obama is preparing to involve America in the Syrian conflict with no side palatable to American interests and nothing to be gained as we have no interest other than regional destabilization. The Syrian rebels include our 9/11 nemesis al-Qaeda while the Syrian government is backed by a newly resurgent Russia looking to expand her influence in the region under Putin and the terrorist group Hezbollah spawned from the Iranian Revolution of 1979 which held American embassy officials hostage. Both sides include players hostile to the United States with records of atrocities committed against America.
The development of domestic energy sources would allow us to greatly reduce our presence in the Mideast conflicts currently raging and force other countries to step into the breach. China and Russia are poised to do so to their advantage possibly with the intention of disrupting oil supplies in the hopes of curbing American hegemony, but the oil crises of the 1970s demonstrate that oil is a world commodity needing buyers to complement sellers. Development of these domestic supplies, now estimated to be enough for over a hundred years of energy independence, would further insulate the United States from nefarious disruptions in the Mideast.
Energy independence is a political pipedream which is now within the realm of possibility. It would allow us the flexibility to pull back from unpalatable Mideast conflicts and stimulate our depressed economy while increasing American wealth and raising our standard of living. To achieve this, we must muzzle the irrational environmentalists and call off progressive efforts to hamper hydraulic fracturing in the form of EPA regulations and denial of public lands to responsible exploration efforts. Progressives are fighting energy independence because it means freedom from government dependence and the need for progressive initiatives which keep Americans beholden to their political beneficence.