The response should never be to falter when your enemy stares you down, but that’s just what President Obama has done with OPEC. He sent a signal: America will blink.
Last week, the Obama administration issued two edicts that could leave much of our strategic energy resources untapped for decades. Mr. Obama announced a plan on Sunday to lock up 12 million acres of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and on Tuesday, his administration offered the most restrictive offshore oil and gas leasing plan in the history of the program. This is the latest move in a broader regulatory expansion that has drastically driven down production on federal lands during his tenure.
By tightening his grasp on these resources, the president has revealed another lack of leadership on the global stage. This time, it’s America’s future leverage in world affairs and our nation’s path to energy security that’s at stake.
This is not a show of courage. It is a show of fear.
The United States is at a critical juncture. In less than a decade, our country has gone from energy dependence to energy abundance. Through homegrown innovation, we have fostered technologies like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that have driven a global energy revolution — fueling our nation’s surge forward in 2014 to overtake both Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil and natural gas liquids producer. The United States has added more than 3 million barrels per day into the global oil market. In 2005, the U.S. imported 60 percent of our oil. In less than a decade, we have reduced that to 40 percent.
The often-overlooked side of this amazing energy comeback story is that America’s energy boom has occurred mainly on private and state lands that are outside direct federal control. That’s because the federal government, under direction from the Obama administration, has imposed layer upon layer of burdensome regulations on permitting and production. Top-down decisions to lock up federal energy resources from potential development are the final death knell for areas such as the Arctic. While environmental alarmists would have the public believe that industry is seeking to drill in beloved landmarks like the Grand Canyon, the reality is that the areas in question are unusable for tourism and specifically set aside for resource exploration and potential development. Moreover, energy producers are proving that they can balance responsible energy exploration and development with protecting our environment at the same time.
Beyond our shores, U.S. allies applaud our energy success — and hope to one day see American energy reach global markets in greater quantities. Our enemies, however, are terrified. Dictatorships from the Middle East to Latin America realize that America’s new strength is a threat to their own clout in the world and their grip on power at home.
Falling global oil prices over the past six months have exacerbated this tension and created a standoff. On one side stand the United States with our allies. On the other side are the petrol-dictators, whose economic power and oppression is completely dependent on oil. In November, OPEC refused to cut production targets — seeking to force American producers out of business and reassert control over global energy markets. OPEC’s signal? We are not afraid to wage economic war.
At this very critical moment, when the world turned to the United States to watch our response, what signal did we send? Mr. Obama announced plans to cut off future development of the resources that have given us this newfound leverage on the world stage. He blinked.
Now is not the time to blink. Instead, we must not only hold the line on production, but remain bold and exert our energy power. We finally have the potential to disarm and even break the bully OPEC cartel, while generating millions of jobs that have already driven our nation’s economy upward. Unlocking domestic energy and protecting environmentally sensitive areas are not mutually exclusive. The administration should open tracts of ANWR to responsible production and lease vast swaths of offshore acreage for exploration. The United States must open up energy exports to our allies in Europe — allies who are begging for our resources so they, too, can be weaned off hostile dictatorships. This would make for a stronger America and a safer world.
Let’s send a signal of strength that will leave those who are hostile to America trembling and our allies cheering.
• Rep. Rob Bishop is the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources.