The Coming American Energy Independence

This is a crucial development for California, which recently slipped to fourth among the 50 states in oil production. Texas remains first, followed by North Dakota and its lucrative new Bakken formation, then Alaska in third place.

The United States is on track to achieve independence from imported Middle East oil within the next seven years due to the boom in domestic and North American energy development.  Consequently, the United States would have eventually ratcheted down our huge military presence in the Middle East defending oil imports.

But just like television scenes of the attack on the United States embassy during the 1968 TET Offensive destroyed public support for the Vietnam War, last week’s television images of protests against American embassies has devastated public support for a continuing military presence in the Middle East.  The American public will soon demand a crash program to exploit domestic energy resources to facilitate a Middle East withdrawal.

American Exceptionalism’s military and economic triumphs in the first half of the 20th Century were directly attributable to secure domestic access to immense amounts of oil. President Coolidge wrote in 1924 after WW I, “the supremacy of nations may be determined by the possession of available petroleum and its products.”

World War II

During World War II, the United States’ domestic gasoline output for the military grew 18 times and the production of aviation fuel jumped by 80 times.  Half the total weight of supplies shipped overseas to U.S. allies during the war consisted of petroleum products.

Following defeat of Germany’s Afrika Korps in 1943, Middle East oil resources were rapidly commercialized.  After the war, massive new volumes of cheap Middle East oil froze the world price of oil at between $2.77 and $3.60 a barrel from 1948 to 1972.  During that period, American domestic production withered and the bulk of U.S. oil refining capacity was relocated to coastal ports on the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

On December 2, 1970, just as oil prices were about to climb, Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency, which had a huge negative financial impact on the domestic oil industry.  The number operating oil refineries in the U.S. fell from 301 in 1970 to 134 today.  Land-based oil production fell from 9.6 million barrels a day in 1970 to only 5.1 million in 2005.

Even with new off-shore production in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, total U.S. domestic oil production fell from 10.8 million barrels a day in 1980 to 8.3 million barrels in 2005.  To cover the shortfall as demand continued to grow, imports rose from1.3 million barrels a day in 1970, providing 12 percent of supply, to a peak of more than 12 million barrels in 2005, accounting for 63 percent of all U.S. oil supply. 

Fracking

But since 2008, fracking and other new drilling technologies have fostered a domestic 25 percwent surge in oil production and a 40 percent jump in natural gas production.  Demand for imported oil has fallen to less than 45 percent of supply, the lowest level since 1997.  Cheap new supplies from Canadian tar sands drove down imports of Middle East oil to less than 10 percent of U.S. supply.

Radical Islam’s coordinated attacks against American embassies across the Middle East have fractured the region’s respect for U.S. military power and emboldened our enemies.  Taliban forces this weekend brazenly penetrated the perimeter of a the joint U.S. and British air base in Afghanistan, blew up 6 Marine Harrier “jump jets” and killed one of the Marines’ highest decorated Air Squadron leaders.  After NATO forces suffered their 51st murder by Afghan government forces, the U.S. military suspended all operations patrolling with Afghan troops.

In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson claimed a military victory as American and South Vietnam forces slaughtered 10 times as many Viet Cong as Americans were lost in the TET Offensive.  But bloody television images of the battle at the U.S. embassy in Saigon convinced Americans that the Vietnamese could never be pacified.  Similar television images of anti-American violence in the Middle East has convinced the American public that the Middle East cannot be pacified.

The American public will soon politically coalesce around a major increase in domestic energy exploration and development in order to facilitate the elimination of reliance on imported Middle East oil.  Fortunately, America has the technology and resource potential to rapidly make this initiative a reality.

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