In less than a decade, the one-time feeble U.S. energy sector has accomplished a record-breaking 180-degree turnaround thanks to advancements in new technologies. In fact, at the current rate, the nation is likely to hit production marks not seen since the 1970s.
As such, we now live in a more energy self-sufficient nation, one that is inching closer every day to energy independence. While we utilize roughly 25 percent of the world’s oil on a daily basis, about 40 percent of the petroleum we consume is imported, down from 60 percent not too long ago.
Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) has advocated for years that if the U.S. continues to develop and explore new energy opportunities in economically and environmentally friendly ways, production would not only escalate, but the economy would also strengthen, as would job growth. Most important, consumers would keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets – and much of that has indeed unfolded.
With oil prices hovering around the $50 mark recently, gas prices have plunged, much to the delight of motorists. Lower oil prices have also been a welcome sigh of relief for other parts of the economy, because when American consumers spend less filling their tanks, they spend more elsewhere, like dining out, shopping, and going on vacations that were once on hold.
But we also know that our emergence in the shale industry has had massive geopolitical consequences. The reduction in the cost of oil is not just an American phenomenon – it’s a worldwide event. Prices are down around the globe for an assortment of reasons – reduced demand and increased supply top the list – and the U.S. fracking as played a large role in this pendulum swing, upping supply and lowering prices.
It has certainly rocked the boat at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which has seen its influence on the global oil marketplace weaken dramatically. For the first time in decades, the whims of the OPEC oil cartel are of little consequence to Americans. In response, OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, decided late last year not to cut production, keeping prices low. Their thinking is this: Since shale production – which has grown to 4 million barrels a day – is more costly than regular extraction, keeping oil prices low will eventually drive out U.S. shale producers.
It’s a strategic – and expensive – attempt by the Saudis and OPEC to reclaim its market share from the U.S. Saudi Arabia is willing will have its first budget deficit since 2011 and the largest in its history. The billions the kingdom has in reserve are expected to help ease the burden of this short-term pain.
This means that the U.S., even in the face of low crude prices, must continue it years-long winning streak in the global energy sector by diversifying their energy resources and increasing, not decreasing, access to natural resources. While we also start expanding market opportunities for those resources.
Make no mistake: Numerous onshore and offshore resources remain untapped, like an estimated 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Arctic waters off Alaska. These resources, and countless more, could heat every home in America for more than 30 years. It would also generate billions in additional revenue, create jobs nationwide, and reduce costs for households across the country.
What goes down must come back up, oil prices included. While crude prices have fallen more than 50 percent since June, causing many American producers to second guess their plans to drill and explore additional resources onshore and off, the drop is temporarily, as prices are still expected to rise later this year.
When they do, we need to make sure that our energy policies and markets are still at the head of the line worldwide, just as they are today. By staying the course and continuing to promote an all of the above energy approach in the U.S., we can help to support the nation’s future economic growth, job creation, self-sufficiency, and national security.