I know you are so disgusted with what is going on in your nation’s playpen, er, capital, that it doesn’t seem possible there might be any good news out of here.
But according to analysis from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and The Wall Street Journal, there is a fascinating development in something every one of us uses every day. This country is now the leading energy-producing nation in the world.
The ramifications are staggering.
For years, we have been moaning about our humongous appetite for oil and our dependence on foreign oil – and for very good reasons. Much of our debt and annual trade deficits have been for foreign oil. Small oil-producing countries have gained far too much power over the rest of the world. Our foreign policy has too often been dictated by oil. Our trips to the gas station and the thermostat are too often occasions of dread.
Poke any politician and he/she has automatically intoned the need for “energy independence.”
To be sure, we are still importing too much costly oil. Oil prices are still more than $100 a barrel. There are major environmental questions yet to be answered about how we are getting oil, coal and natural gas out of the ground. Refining capacity cannot be expanded overnight. And Saudi Arabia is still the world’s largest oil producer.
But America’s rapid technological advances in fracking, or extracting oil out of oil shale buried deep underground, are awesome. Domestic natural gas production is soaring. Incredibly, for the first time, we will produce more energy than Russia this year.
The White House likes to point out that since President Barack Obama took office, oil imports have declined 15 percent and natural gas imports are down 32 percent, although the trend began before he was elected.
There is a danger in this development. Americans once again might grow complacent about energy and become energy profligates, reducing their efforts to curtail energy use. The national effort to increase automobile fuel efficiency might halt.
The Journal notes that if oil and natural gas prices are driven down, energy companies could easily slow production and curtail research into better methods of extracting oil and gas. Capital to fund more production could dry up or become too expensive. The Journal reports it was also told by the head of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that the U.S. oil boom might run out of steam in less than 10 years, although independent experts don’t think that will happen.
At the October meeting of the North American Gas Forum, government experts said the United States is on track to becoming an exporter of natural gas by 2040.
“The United States is more energy secure than it’s been in decades,” Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Tony Clark told the gathering.
Other experts said that the U.S. energy renaissance may be the engine that fuels true economic recovery.
A common theme of speakers at the sessions was that natural gas is a key component of reducing America’s contribution to climate change, which scientists overwhelmingly agree is a serious threat to the world and is caused by burning fossil fuels.
The next worrisome crisis facing the United States is the dangerously outmoded national electric grid, according to the National Academy of Sciences. The grid is also vulnerable to terrorist attacks, a key concern to the Department of Homeland Security. But there are so many other problems facing the country that the grid has received short shrift.
Energy is complicated. Renewable energy is costly. And there will come a day when easily attainable fuels are exhausted. But that day is much further in the future than most experts thought just a few years ago.
We should enjoy this moment. We can all join in to say, with confidence and no hedging, in energy, America is No. 1.
Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politic since 1986. Email email@example.com.