U.S. national security depends on energy

By Michael James Barton

American energy independence is finally within our reach. But President Obama is doing everything he can to make sure we remain dependent on foreign oil and gas.

Thanks to a boom in domestic production, energy imports have declined dramatically in recent years. This reduction has helped increase U.S. energy security for three straight years, according to a new U.S. Chamber of Commerce report.

Yet the president just imposed rules limiting domestic energy development on federal lands. And in February, the president proposed a new tax on oil. Already, the energy industry faces an uphill battle to maintain these security gains in a market awash with cheap energy. The White House’s plans jeopardize America’s progress towards energy independence.

The Chamber’s report evaluates energy security by assessing 37 different metrics ranging from oil price volatility to energy efficiency to the amount of money spent on energy-related research. Then, the Chamber comes up with a figure called the “Energy Security Risk Index.” The lower the number, the safer the United States.

Last year, the Index fell to 74.5 — the lowest level in over 35 years. That drop is thanks to the drastic uptick in U.S. oil and natural gas production.

The connection is clear: The more energy the United States produces, the less it has to buy from unstable regimes.

The United States’ current oil output is remarkable. From 2008 to 2014, oil production increased by a staggering 74 percent, while our Index dropped from 98.6 to 82. Last year, petroleum imports dropped 29 percent.

As the Chamber’s report notes, the development of the energy sector “has turned scarcity into abundance and boosted America’s standing as a global energy powerhouse.”

The numbers on U.S. natural gas production are even more impressive.

The widespread adoption of fracking has put the United States on track to become a net exporter of natural gas by 2017. We’ve already passed Russia as the largest producer of natural gas in the world.

These improvements in American energy security couldn’t have come at a better time. The recent lifting of sanctions against Iran will enable the regime to sell more oil to maintain a stronger position in international markets. These massive revenues will flow to this recognized state sponsor of terror.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration seems intent on hindering domestic energy development — and returning to a time when the country depended heavily on rogue regimes for its energy. In January, the administration announced a ban on new coal mining leases on public lands. Shortly after, the White House proposed limiting methane emissions from oil and gas operations in the same areas.

These new restrictions come at a bad time. Oil has plummeted to almost $30 a barrel — its lowest level in more than a decade. While cheaper energy is good for consumers, it also means the oil industry is struggling.

President Obama’s suggested $10.25 tax on every barrel of oil would undo the progress we’ve made toward energy independence. Simultaneously, this levy would cause the price of gas to increase by 25 cents a gallon at the pumps.

The Chamber’s report is telling. The oil and gas industry has generated huge security gains over the last few years. The Obama administration should encourage this development — not suffocate it with regulations and extra taxes on consumers.


Michael James Barton is the Energy Advisor at ARTIS Research and speaks around the country on energy and energy security matters. He previously served as the deputy director of Middle East policy at the Pentagon.

By Michael James Barton