Not many people noticed during the run up to the Iowa caucuses and last year's payroll tax fight that a far more important, and potentially game-changing, resolution passed the Senate at the end of 2011. It was the authorization for the $3 billion Keystone XL pipeline connecting us to Canada’s booming oil shale production, which the Senate has given President Obama sixty days to either sign or not sign as “not in the national interest.”
What’s at stake here isn’t just new access to oil, or even jobs–some 20,000 in the construction phase alone and perhaps as many 600,000 jobs by 2035, once those 70,000 barrels of oil a day start flowing. It’s America’s future as the new energy giant of the 21st century.
Consider these facts:
We are already the world’s number three oil producer at 7.5 million barrels a day.
In June Exxon-Mobil announced discovery of a massive new field in the Gulf of Mexico, with as many as 700 million barrels waiting to be tapped.
Montana and North Dakota sit on an oil shale formation that could produce another four billion barrels.
In addition, Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Reserve’s fields and National Petroleum Reserve could easily add another thirty billion barrels to add to a new American gusher.
Even if you don’t count Alaska, the new boom of off-shore drilling and oil shale production should add another 1.5 million barrels a day to our domestic output by 2015. That’s closing on Saudi Arabia’s daily total. With Canada and Mexico already producing more than Iran and the Arab Emirates combined, we’re looking at a major shift in the geopolitics of oil–with the United States at the center of it.
Don’t be fooled claims that fossil fuels are doomed. Alternative fuels won’t be coming on line anytime soon, certainly not enough to replace the essential role that oil, natural gas, and coal play in our economy from sources of energy to modern plastics and petrochemicals.
Obama, of course, is fighting the emergence of the United States as the new energy colossus every step of the way.
He used the BP oil spill to impose a moratorium on new off shore drilling; his EPA is now trying to halt new natural gas exploration through fracking; he was hoping to postpone the battle over Keystone until after the 2012 election. And that’s not counting the billions of tax payers’ money he’s poured into his obsession with wind and solar power, including clunkers like Solyndra.
The irony is that Obama thinks he’s on the cutting edge of the future, when he actually on the back end of the past. He and his green pals continue to tout a technology that hasn’t advanced much since we experimented with solar batteries in my junior high school shop class back in 1970.
Meanwhile, the new oil empire is waiting to gush–indeed, with Keystone’s help in twenty years almost ninety percent of our liquid fuel needs could be coming from just from ourselves and Canada.
Good-bye, OPEC. Hello, energy independence.
All we need is a president who doesn’t have to be arm twisted into keeping us strong and
Arthur Herman is a historian and author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist "Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age (Bantam, 2008)," His other books include the Mountbatten Prize–nominated "To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World (HarperCollins, 2005)," the New York Times bestseller "How the Scots Invented the Modern World (Three Rivers Press, 2001)," and many articles on foreign and military policy. He is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.