The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Industry

‘This Unique American Moment’

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted January 6, 2015

The U.S. energy revolution is fundamentally empowering. There’s no better word for it. Because of resurgent American energy, our country has choices where the horizon once was filled with energy-based limitations.

Because domestic energy is more abundant, Americans have renewed mobility – literally, in the form of cheaper gasoline that’s largely the result of U.S. crude oil impacting global markets and economically, because of oil and natural gas industry-supported job creation and investment, and a manufacturing renaissance spurred by affordable fuels and feedstocks.

No less important: The United States is more secure in the world because we’re much less dependent on energy from adversarial sources. America's all-of-the-above energy potential is a powerful opportunity for the nation.

This is a special moment in U.S. history, the dawn of a new energy-driven reality that could sustain and grow American prosperity here at home and America’s influence in the world. It could – if we seize it.

soaeThroughout his annual State of American Energy address, API President and CEO Jack Gerard struck the positive chords of possibility in an American energy era – possibilities dependent on our national leadership’s ability to support “smart, responsible and forward-looking energy policies that promote economic growth, job creation and U.S. energy security and leadership.” 

Repeatedly, Gerard referred to “this unique American moment”:

“America’s emergence as a global energy leader has fundamentally reordered the world’s energy markets, by elevating the importance of North American energy production and reducing what had been the dominant roles of OPEC and Russia. And if we get our energy policy right, this unique American moment could support millions of well-paying jobs and expand the participation of traditionally underrepresented groups, which will be critical to fulfilling our nation’s bright energy future.”

This once-in-a-generation opportunity is rooted in U.S. energy development that would’ve been unimaginable a decade ago -- a revolution that has made America the world’s No. 1 producer of natural gas and one that could make the U.S. the world’s top oil producer sometime this year. Gerard noted benefits we’ve already seen here at home:

Yet, opportunity can be mismanaged or fumbled away entirely. Gerard said policymakers must put the national interest first:

“As this New Year begins we stand at the threshold of a sustained era of American global energy leadership. … We have the opportunity to permanently diminish what have been our nation’s largest economic and geo-political vulnerabilities: domestic energy scarcity and dependence on foreign countries to meet our nation’s energy needs. We should transcend political parties. It should not be about Republicans, Democrats or Independents; it’s about all Americans benefiting from our nation’s emergence as an energy leader. ... The American people want, expect and deserve elected leaders who will place what’s best for our nation’s economy and energy future above partisan ideology and political posturing for the next election.”

Here’s what that means: implementing policies that set the nation, as Gerard put it, on a “positive trajectory when it comes to energy.” It means Congress and the administration working together to put in place a true all-of-the-above energy approach – recognizing that while all energy sources are needed for America’s future, we need to see that fossil fuels lead and will continue to take the lead in powering the U.S. and world economies – the data-driven assessment of both the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the International Energy Agency.

Acknowledging the lead role of fossil fuels means working to advance safe and responsible oil and natural gas development – and rejecting the false choices advanced by a few that safe energy production and a safe environment exclude each other. Gerard:

“The fact is, our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions are near 20-year lows, thanks in large part to the significant growth in the use of North American produced natural gas, which is driven by the 21st century American energy renaissance, not government regulation and mandate. Today, we hear calls for regulating methane, yet according to a recent EPA study, even with the significant increase in energy production, methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing have fallen by 73 percent since 2011, a result of technological innovations by the oil and natural gas industry.”

With the right policies and this cooperative approach, we can see investment in energy infrastructure that will seed the ground for job growth and economic expansion. Talking to reporters after his speech, Gerard said it’s important for policymakers to acknowledge that energy infrastructure investment has economic impact on par with “traditional” infrastructure projects, such as construction of roads and bridges. An IHS analysis found that essential oil and natural gas infrastructure improvements could spur up to $1.15 trillion in new private capital investment over the next decade, while supporting 1.15 million new jobs and adding $120 billion on average per year to the national GDP.

The state of American energy is good, very good. But it will not stay that way if we neglect choices that extend and grow our energy revolution. It starts with seeing the chance to fundamentally secure America’s future, which is so dependent on energy. Then the opportunity must be seized, with wise policies that lock in gains and provide impetus for new ones.

As noted above, America isn’t far removed from a time when the future looked limited because of energy scarcity. That scarcity meant the U.S. had to keep a constant eye on sources of energy overseas – which in turn shaped so many policy decisions. The “unique American moment” referred to in Gerard’s speech also refers to American liberty. Gerard:

“Our vision for our nation’s energy future is inclusive, realistic and above all rooted in the belief that energy’s fundamental role in our society is a positive that should be encouraged rather than hampered. ... We will contrast our vision of economic growth, expanded economic opportunity for millions and long-term American global energy leadership against the contrarian view, which would result in a lower standard of living, shrinking economy and, ultimately, American energy dependence. The choice is that stark and that simple. Our fundamental message is equally simple:  Energy is central to our way of life and we will need more of it for many years to come.”

Thanks to American-made energy, that unique moment and its choices are ours.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joins API after spending 16 years as national editorial writer in the Washington Bureau of The Oklahoman newspaper. In all, he has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, including six years as sports editor at The Washington Times. He lives in Occoquan, Virginia, with his wife Pamela. Mark graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism and earned a masters in journalism and public affairs at American University. He's currently working on a masters in history at George Mason University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor in the Communication Department.

Energy Tomorrow is a project of the American Petroleum Institute – the only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry – speaking for the industry to the public, Congress and the Executive Branch, state governments and the media.