The link between energy and security is increasingly evident as geopolitical hot spots flare up around the world.
Global oil prices have gone up 4 percent since the beginning of June as Iraq — the second-leading producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries — is under siege by insurgents, threatening exports and sending reverberations through oil markets. Russia is using its vast natural gas supplies — on which much of Europe and Ukraine depend — to wield geopolitical control in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine.
For good or for ill, those who have energy have power and influence in a global economy. Today, the United States and its abundant resources can be a force for good in our own economy and for stability around the world.
We’re sitting on a 200-year supply of oil and have enough natural gas to last 115 years — and we’re discovering more resources every year. Thanks to entrepreneurship and ingenuity driven by the private sector, we’ve been able to access and develop more oil and gas than ever. As a result, U.S. petroleum imports have fallen from 60 percent to 35 percent in less than a decade. And with the combined resources of our friends and partners in Canada and Mexico, North America is on track to be energy independent by 2020 and could be a net energy exporter by 2030.
The positive effects of the U.S. energy boom are benefiting the rest of the world, too. The drop in U.S. oil imports and the increase in U.S. exports of refined products have helped keep international prices relatively stable — even amid market shocks and supply disruptions. Businesses and consumers would be much more vulnerable to geopolitical strife or the whims of foreign dictators or forces without a steady flow of U.S. supply.
Yet we can do more. As America tears down impediments to the development and export of U.S. energy resources, including oil, gas and coal, our allies can reduce their dependence on imports from uncertain or even hostile suppliers. That would promote greater global stability. How much more leverage might Europe, a key U.S. partner, have over Moscow if it didn’t need to turn around and buy Russian oil and gas?
Besides security benefits, energy bolsters our domestic economy, creates jobs, drives manufacturing and generates revenue. But if we’re going to fully realize any of these benefits, we must see a change in U.S. policies that promote endless permitting delays, wrongheaded regulations, attempts to pick winners and losers among industries, and political agendas.
U.S. energy can be a powerful force for good at home and abroad — but only if we let it.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.