Opinion

A Better Way on Energy Policy: An American Success Story

In a world often confronted with bad news, positive developments are welcome. Our nation’s energy situation is providing such relief to what’s often a drought of good news.

Abundant supply, new technologies, market forces, and wise congressional action are all helping write a new chapter in our nation’s energy story. It’s a narrative the American people need to better understand because it represents a better way to power our nation.

We are currently experiencing a North American energy supply renaissance. Gone are the days of snaking gasoline lines and fears about petro-potentate price gouging. America and our Canadian neighbors have discovered vast new storehouses of oil and natural gas we never knew existed. These immense new supplies span the continent like an energy security belt, stretching from Pennsylvania to North Dakota, from Texas to Canada. Our country is now like a super tanker in the ocean of world oil supply.

These abundant resources keep consumer prices stable as our domestic supplies have continued to grow in recent years.  According to the Energy Information Administration, from 2011 to 2015 the cost of gasoline at the pump bumped around between $3.25 and almost $4.00 per gallon on average nationally. More recently prices have dipped toward $2 per gallon, not cheap, but certainly welcome relief and stability compared to the price from the higher costs and volatility of the past.

It wasn’t always this way. During the late-1970s and early-1980s our energy world was almost as unstable as a banana republic. Petroleum supplies and prices depended on the whims of brash dictators, hostile regimes, and Washington bureaucrats. Our energy policy was a blend of risky business, arrogant government micro management, and naïve hope, a volatile brew that consistently burned consumers in the process.

But times have changed.

New technologies, super computers, and enhanced recovery techniques have been the keys to unlock game changing reserves previously hidden deep in the rocks of planet earth.

American businesses also wisely grabbed the wheel when it comes to steering our crude oil future, developing these new sources of supply. We now produce more domestic oil and gas than ever, particularly on state and private lands where the tourniquet of federal regulations has not choked off these sources of economic freedom and growth. We have also taken important steps to fortify our pipeline safety laws. And as a result, our exports are at record levels and imports are at 20-year lows.

Despite this economically encouraging supply news, most Americans’ real touchstone to energy comes back to the price at the pump. How much it costs to fill up our tanks, to take the kids to school, drive to work, or to buy groceries. Every good energy report card begins with reliable and affordable grades when it comes to the cost of the fuel to power our economy.

Smart congressional policies, like modernizing outmoded laws and rules also helped exploit the transformations in the energy world for the benefit of consumers and the U.S. economy. Lifting the ban on crude oil exports is a good example.

The 1970s era prohibition on exports was imposed at a time when we believed we had drained the barrel in terms of domestic energy. But disco-era policies no longer make sense. Congress wisely lifted the ban on exports at the end of 2015, modernizing our laws to fit the rhythms of our new energy playlist.

Opening new export opportunities helped balance supply and demand realities created by the expansions in domestic energy production. The surge in exports helped protect American energy jobs while keeping prices at the pump relatively flat. According to EIA, we now export over 250,000 barrels of oils a day to countries other than Canada — an all time high. While at the same time gasoline prices in August of 2016 are about where they were at the end of 2015 — good news for both producers and consumers.

The American energy world has come a long way since the uncertain days of gasoline lines and OPEC world dominance. We used to fret about running out of oil and natural gas. Now the bigger questions are how to transport, store, and best use our abundant resources. Free markets, technological advancement, and smarter congressional actions powered this transformation — not Middle Eastern cartels or centralized government planning. Those are the key principles embodied in House Republicans “Better Way” agenda for the economy. It’s regulatory reform that has already brought about welcome change and benefits for consumers, jobs, and our energy sector. And we can continue this good news if we stay on the right path. That’s a story worth repeating.

 

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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