The line for gasoline was several blocks long as I sat behind the wheel of my father’s Chevrolet and cracked open “The Catcher in the Rye”. It was 1973.
I finished the novel by the time I pulled up to the pump hours later, hoping there’d still be gas to put in the empty tank. I read a lot of books that year with my keister stuck to the vinyl front seat of dad’s Chevy. It always happened on odd-numbered days which matched the last digit of his license plate. That’s how it was back then. Odd or even.
If you want to know the truth --as Holden Caulfield was fond of saying-- I hated OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) for holding the U.S. hostage over its need for fuel. Who in this country didn’t? Americans seethed as they waited in long lines to “fill her up”. With transportation crippled, businesses everywhere struggled or collapsed.
The oil cartel, comprised of 12 partners, was guilty of malevolence and greed. They monopolized the marketplace, restricted access and fixed prices. But America was guilty of myopia and stupidity. We had allowed ourselves to become dependent on, and controlled by, foreign oil. The result was a debilitating embargo that cost this country dearly. Oil prices quadrupled and shortages ensued, triggering recessions and high inflation that persisted for more than a decade.
So forgive my glee over the recent implosion of OPEC’s grip on petro power. It only took us four decades to figure out the obvious: energy independence and freedom from foreign extortionists can only be attained by producing it yourself. Allowing others, including hostile and corrupt governments, to dictate supplies and prices is as crazy as Caulfield’s fear of falling out of a field of rye over a cliff.
America has finally backed away from its own energy cliff and is today on the precipice of energy success. Now, roughly 85 % self-sufficient, we are poised to become the world’s top producer of crude oil, having already become the top producer of natural gas. With it, comes the ability to render OPEC enervated and, perhaps someday, irrelevant.
Importantly, it is energizing our economy by reducing fuel prices, lowering transportation costs, and increasing the purchasing power of consumers, while boosting both manufacturers and retailers. Energy independence also impacts long-term economic growth in the form of lower inflation, a stronger dollar, and an improved trade deficit. Increased production here at home created jobs and fostered prosperity. It was the engine that helped drive our economy out of the recent bleak recession.
Our nation’s long awaited energy ascendance has come despite the vigorous actions of President Obama to curtail or shutdown oil and gas production.
He has waged a six year war on fossil fuels, restricting access and delaying permits. Under his watch, oil and gas leases for federal lands and offshore sites in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans have been postponed, rescinded or cancelled. Don’t believe me? Check out the nifty list compiled by Doc Hastings, House Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee.
Yet, President Obama brags to audiences that “under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last 8 years.” He implies he had something to do with it. He did not. According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, “all the increases in production since 2007 have taken place on non-federal lands.” In other words, it happened on private and state lands over which the president has little or no authority. Meanwhile, production has decreased significantly on federal lands over which Obama exerts control.
The president seems allergic to the notion of giving credit where credit is due. He had nothing whatsoever to do with opening new opportunities for drilling and increasing production. To the contrary, he fought it every step of the way. Credit is owing entirely to American oil and gas companies which had the ingenuity and tenacity to develop new energy-producing technologies that revolutionized the industry by discovering and recovering fuels that were heretofore unreachable. Their innovations have increased our nation’s oil production by 80 % since 2008.
America is on its way to becoming not only energy independent, but energy dominant. No thanks to President Obama. He didn’t want to hear it. Literally. I sat down with Harold Hamm, the billionaire oilman who opened up the vast Bakken oil and gas fields of the northern plains. He told me the story of meeting with the president at the White House early in his first term.
Question: What happened?
Hamm: I wanted him to know for sure the opportunity that we had. We were creating a whole new renaissance of American oil and gas. And there are a lot of good things that come from that. Good middle-class jobs, for instance. National security. The balance of trade.
Question: And his reaction?
Hamm: He didn’t want to hear it. And he didn’t hear it.
And then, something curious happened. Two weeks later, Obama’s Department of Justice brought criminal charges against Hamm’s oil and gas company. The crime? Killing a single bird. It was found in what’s called a “reserve pit” used to collect the waste and mud from drilling. A federal judge eventually dismissed the charge, but not before lambasting the D-O-J for its frivolous and wrongful use of legal muscle. Hamm had a different term for it –retribution, for trying to tell the president something he did not want to hear.
The incident may speak volumes about a president who appears to surround himself with sycophants, turn a deaf ear to the ideas of others, and castigate those who dare disagree with him. When it comes to energy, he has his own ideas. To wit, supporting neophyte companies like Solyndra which blew a half a billion dollars of taxpayer money on solar panels before going belly-up. It joins a list of 36 Obama-backed green energy companies that have either filed for bankruptcy or are faltering.
This is not to suggest that renewable energy is unwise or foolish. Indeed, it is vital part of our nation’s future if we wish to protect the environment and reduce our reliance on oil and natural gas as diminishing resources. But pervasive use of renewables are, at best, a generation away. Right now, wind, solar and biofuels are inefficient, expensive and intermittent. They account for a mere 6 % of the electricity generated in America.
Jimmy Carter’s answer to the chronic oil crisis of the 70’s was to turn down the thermostat and put on a cardigan sweater. It was a nice look, but didn’t really catch on. Most other presidents since then realized that the most effective strategy to combating domestic scarcity and foreign dependence was to simply drill more and increase production. But President Obama approach has been truly novel: oppose that very strategy while pretending to embrace it.
When you think about it… it’s an astonishing act of temerity for Obama to take credit for the oil boom he tried to block.
It brings to mind Holden Caulfield’s favorite word: “phony.”