August 22, 2015
The United States recently overtook Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world's leading oil and natural gas producer. This is a big achievement, especially when you consider that just a decade ago, our energy future looked murky. We were importing most of the oil we consumed; we were building terminals to import natural gas. Congress even passed a law in 2006 to move the country toward other sources of energy.
Republicans didn't give up, though. We included a provision in that same law — the Energy Policy Act — which recognized that the states were doing a good job regulating the process of hydraulic fracturing. We saw that Washington didn't need to dictate how things were done or get involved at all.
Ten years later, this one provision has helped unleash a national energy boom that has created countless jobs and a manufacturing revolution.
How extensive is this boom? It is the most rapid increase in oil and natural gas production in American history. Job growth in the oil and gas industry has far outpaced the economy as a whole. Across the country, gasoline prices continue to fall by the day. And if trends hold, it could soon become cheaper to make things here than in China.
The story is being repeated nationwide. For example, after decades of decline, Youngstown, Ohio, is experiencing a comeback due to a surge in energy production. Unemployment is less than half of what it was six years ago. “None of this would have happened if not for the oil and gas industry,” one local union leader said. And these aren't just good jobs. They are good-paying jobs: in Pennsylvania, wages in the oil and gas sector jumped by roughly 79 percent over a 10-year period. That's more than triple the increase for the state as a whole.
There's more. Because of this boom, we have an opportunity to reset the foundation of our economy for generations to come. Abroad, we can help our allies become less dependent on countries like Russia that essentially use energy as ransom to charge higher prices and exert more control.
All of this has happened despite the fact that the Obama administration has actually reduced energy production on federal lands. Indeed, that one provision in a 550-page bill has shown how much progress we can make when we encourage innovation as part of an all-of-the-above energy policy. And it sets the stage for what we have to do next.
You see, for all its success, this energy boom is currently running into a brick wall in the form of other federal government policies that date back to the 1970s. Even as the Obama administration seeks to lift sanctions on Iran's oil exports, the law is still keeping our own producers from exporting crude oil. Most Americans don't even know that we have such a ban, but we do, and it costs them every time they fill up their gas tank.
By lifting the ban, we can create about a million more jobs at home. We can increase household incomes and lower prices at the pump even further. And we can help our allies, including Israel, which imports much of its oil from Russia. With all the potential here, I hope the administration will work with us in the coming months to lift the oil export ban once and for all.
America has the talent, the know-how and the God-given resources to be an energy superpower if we make the right choices. Ten years from now, let's be able to again look back and say that we made the right call.