U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel recently barred the Interior Department from moving forward with its offshore drilling plans until the federal government reopens. According to his injunction, the department is prohibited “from taking action to promulgate permits ... or take any other official action regarding the pending permit applications for oil and gas surveys in the Atlantic.”
Hopefully, the ban will be lifted quickly now that the partial government shutdown has ended. Right now, nearly 94 percent of offshore territories are off-limits to energy explorers.
Unlocking offshore resources would help not just energy companies, manufacturing workers, and drivers, but every American that values national security.
Energy is a powerful geopolitical tool. Any move toward energy independence is also a move toward keeping our nation safe.
The last 15 years have ushered in an American energy renaissance. New technologies such as fracking and horizontal drilling have enabled developers to tap huge underground energy reserves, driving domestic production to unprecedented heights that strategic analyzers have been pining to achieve for decades. We're now the world's top producer of both natural gas and oil.
That means the United States is now well on its way to achieving the once unthinkable: complete energy independence. Our net energy imports have fallen a remarkable 95 percent since 2008. Today, imports constitute just 19 percent of our total petroleum consumption – a 50-year low.
This progress has had huge, largely underappreciated national security implications.
For starters, it's made us less vulnerable to market manipulations by rogue regimes.
Infamously, back in the 1970s, the powerful cartel of Middle East oil producers known as OPEC artificially constricted its exports to damage the American economy. The gambit worked precisely as intended. America was heavily reliant on OPEC and the sudden shortage was economically catastrophic, stranding Americans all over the country in long waiting lines to fill up their tanks.
A modern incarnation of this embargo would fizzle. We don't need OPEC's oil anymore. Indeed, energy imports from Saudi Arabia have dropped by half since 2007. And crude oil and petroleum imports from Venezuela, a global adversary, have fallen nearly 60 percent. Today, our biggest source of crude oil is Canada, one of our closest allies. We're no longer at the mercy of rogue regimes.
Second, the United States has become a major player in foreign energy markets long dominated by our adversaries, undercutting their position and solidifying relationships with strategically important allies.
Consider Europe. Russia supplies nearly 40 percent of the European Union's natural gas. And smaller Baltic states such as Lithuania and Estonia are almost entirely dependent on the Kremlin to heat their homes and power their cars. Russia routinely leverages this dependency to ensure acquiescence to its imperialist ambitions.
But America is now steadily eating into Moscow's market share. Since 2016, EU imports of American liquefied natural gas have jumped from zero to nearly 3 billion cubic meters – and that figure keeps climbing. Both Poland and Lithuania have recently built natural gas import terminals for the express purpose of buying more American gas and loosening the Kremlin's grip on their energy markets, and their freedom.
Expanding domestic production would solidify these security gains. The best way to boost our production is to allow offshore development. There's an estimated 90 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in federal offshore territories in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
The Obama White House vehemently opposed opening up these territories, subjecting development requests to endless delays and imposing a statewide drilling moratorium in Alaska.
This opposition was primarily animated by groundless environmental concerns. Despite activist hysteria, oceanic drilling rigs have never been safer. Since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident, the oil and natural gas industry has updated or implemented more than 100 regulations governing offshore exploration and production. Leading oil and gas companies also established the Center for Offshore Safety, an industry-run organization focused exclusively on enforcing current safety standards and creating new ones.
Cutting-edge sensor systems have empowered operators to quickly identify and fix any leaks. Spills are exceedingly rare.
Fully opening up our offshore resources would accelerate the American energy renaissance, solidifying our national security gains in the process.