US oil and gas production was already declining, when the 1973 Arab oil embargo sent oil and gasoline prices skyrocketing and created block-long lines at gas stations. Increased domestic production could have eased the supply and price crunch, but the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill had resulted in congressional leasing and drilling moratoriums on federal offshore and onshore lands.
Though it voted 50-49 to build the Alaska pipeline, Congress refused to allow more drilling. Instead, it legislated a 55-mph speed limit, mileage standards for vehicles and a ban on exporting domestically produced crude oil. The speed limit was eventually lifted, but drilling bans expanded, the mileage rules tightened, the export ban remained, and the United States increasingly imported more oil at higher prices.
However, quietly and under the federal and environmentalist radar, America’s oil industry improved and expanded its horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (aka, fracking) technologies – on state and private lands, where DC regulators and pressure groups had little sway. The unprecedented boom that followed sent US oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids (propane) production sharply upward for the first time in decades. America’s oil output rose 30% just between 2011 and 2013, to 7.4 million barrels per day. The Green mantra that we were depleting petroleum supplies was smashed on the fractured rocks of reality.
Suddenly, the United States was importing less oil than at any time since 1995; millions of oil patch and related jobs were created; frack state royalty and tax revenues skyrocketed; natural gas prices plummeted; and the cheaper fuels and feed stocks fostered a US petrochemical and manufacturing renaissance. The fracking revolution also enabled companies to export more gasoline, kerosene, lubricants, solvents, asphalt and other finished products (since the government never banned refined product exports). Those exports have greatly improved the nation’s balance of trade and gross domestic product.
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