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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

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President Obama is wasting America's energy windfall

President Obama is wasting America's energy windfall

Oil imports could soon be a thing of the past.

That's the main takeaway from a new report from Nordic consulting firm Rystad. Researchers estimated the total recoverable oil reserves still buried under American soil. The final figure is astonishing: 264 billion barrels -- more than any other nation in the world.

Unlocking these reserves would generate tremendous benefits for the economy and move America towards full energy independence. Yet the White House has repeatedly stood in the way. Time and again, this administration has tried to smother our businesses with excessive regulations.

Consider fracking. The Rystad report found half of this country's recoverable oil can only be accessed through this drilling technique, which involves pumping a high-pressure mixture of sand and water into rock formations to loosen up embedded oil and gas.

While fracking has existed since the 1940s, recent advances allow producers to access previously unreachable reserves.

In 2015, the Interior Department issued strict fracking controls on federal and Indian lands, accounting for five percent of domestic oil production. These rules, grounded in scientifically specious concern about the technique's environmental effects, significantly slowed energy development in these areas.

Fortunately, a federal judge recently struck down these controls as exceeding Interior's authority.

These anti-fracking measures are just the start. In April, the White House imposed a requirement on offshore drilling, demanding that producers hire outside organizations to conduct safety exams.

This mandate was redundant. Offshore drilling operations have taken dramatic strides to improve safety, including hundreds of new rules and the creation of a central industry association to share best practices.

This offshore requirement ratcheted up the cost of drilling operations for no discernible safety gain.

A few months later, the Environmental Production Agency unveiled regulations governing methane emissions generated by oil wells. These rules had minimal environmental benefit, but will cost producers over half a billion dollars over the next decade.

The White House isn't an ally of the energy industry. Its regulatory aggression suppresses sector growth and undercuts the American economy.

The costs of this crusade aren't purely economic -- they're also geopolitical.

Exploding domestic production has allowed our country to wean itself off oil sourced abroad. Since 2005, oil imports dropped by 27 percent. Last year, only one-fourth of oil consumed came from foreign countries -- the lowest level since Nixon's administration.

So the United States consumes significantly less oil from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and other hostile regimes.

Many foreign countries are eager to buy U.S. oil. Last year, Congress lifted the decades-old ban on oil exports and international sales surged. Just this April, the United States exported 17.7 million barrels -- the highest monthly total ever.

The bulk of those exports went to European and Asian allies that previously relied on Russian imports to meet their energy needs. The Kremlin used its energy dominance to force other countries to capitulate to its aggression in the Ukraine and elsewhere. Our allies are now much less vulnerable to such intimidation.

The Obama administration's suppression of domestic oil industry growth slows our oil exports. That hampers this geopolitically advantageous migration away from oil sourced from dangerous regimes. And it costs good jobs here at home.

The energy industry has transformed the American economy. As this new report makes clear, our country is well-positioned to reap the economic and geopolitical benefits of a domestic oil boom for years to come -- but only if the White House gets out of the way.


By Dan Kish, Guest Columnist

Dan Kish is a senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research.