The recent speech by Rick Perry on energy policy and an article by Stephen Moore in the Wall Street Journal discussing Harold Hamm’s analysis of our nation’s oil and gas potential ought to be the biggest story of the presidential campaign. Hamm, who grew up in rural Oklahoma as the son of sharecroppers, has roots like Perry, who grew up in rural Texas as the son of sharecroppers.
America rose to superpower status in large part through the genius and grit of its oilmen. In the Second World War our nation produced much more oil than all the rest of the world put together, and more than 80% of Allied oil production. It is hard to imagine how we could have won that war, which required huge amounts of oil to sail our warships, fly our aircraft, fuel our tanks and trucks – and to fill that need for our allies – without our incredibly productive oil industry.
Domestic production of oil and gas declined because the cost of production in nations like Saudi Arabia allowed OPEC to become a cartel that could underbid American producers. Leftists in America collaborated. Drilling for oil was proscribed in many areas that likely had vast reserves.
Moreover, the left hated every practical American energy resource. Coal mining was hobbled with environmental regulations. Nuclear power plants could not be built even though France has safely produced vast amounts of electricity through nuclear power for decades, much of which is exported.
Although masked in the exotic nonsense of radical environmentalism, leftist opposition to American energy production was not based on real concern about environmental safety. Nuclear power and natural gas are extraordinarily clean energies. The EPA could not keep other nations from messy oil and coal exploration, so suppressing American exploration and extraction actually made environmentally unsafe foreign drilling and mining profitable.
The leftist war on American energy production was simply an extension of the leftist war on America, and men like Obama and his minions are militants in this war. So when our oilmen find huge reserves of oil, as in Alaska or more recently in the Bakken fields in North Dakota and Montana, the left scowls. The revitalization of our economy and the return of America to energy independence are the last things leftists want.
Yet ordinary Americans yearn for an economic boom that will lift us into solid prosperity and end the long shadow of our national debt. Hamm, whose business success shows that he knows how much oil and gas we have and how cheaply we can produce it, tells us that just the royalties from oil and gas taken out of federal lands could, over time, equal $18 trillion or enough money to pay off the entire national debt without raising taxes at all.
But that is only part of the benefit to our nation. Aggressive energy extraction policies would create a lot of good paying jobs. North Dakota today has the lowest unemployment in America and energy revenues are so high that the state is considering ending state income and property taxes. Energy production, one of the most elemental forms of wealth creation, enriches everyone involved. As Hamm points out, there are ten million oil royalty owners in America. Abundant national energy supplies would invigorate our nation’s industrial base by driving down a fundamental cost of production. Lower gas prices and utility bills would put more money in the hands of ordinary Americans. Aside from federally subsidized windmill makers and an occasional caribou, it is hard to see who would not be helped by more and cheaper domestic fossil fuels.
But another crucial blessing flows from large supplies of inexpensive American oil, gas and coal. Driving down the global cost of energy would reduce the power of hostile foreign governments like Iran, Russia and Venezuela. It would also embolden those friendly nations which want no more wars and no terrorist threats like Japan, Israel and India.
This is a plan for revitalizing our nation that actually works: vast federal oil and gas royalties, more revenue for state governments as well, a humming economy with more taxpayers, dropping social safety net spending, smaller defense budgets, and a stronger dollar. Perry and Palin have pushed this change in energy policy hard. All Republican candidates should make domestic energy production a centerpiece of their campaign. Why? The benefits would not just be prosperity for our nation but also peace in an increasingly dangerous world.