United States Needs to Discard Its Outdated Energy Policy

April 10, 2014

Current energy policies are preventing the United States from becoming an energy exporter, says Will Marshall, president and founder of the Progressive Policy Institute.

  • The United States does not export oil and gas because the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act bars most U.S. crude oil exports.
  • Natural gas exportation is not illegal, but it does require Department of Energy approval to build terminals that liquefy the gas in order to ship it overseas -- and the industry complains that these approvals are not happening, at least not quickly.

These outdated export restrictions are based on the idea that fossil fuels are scarce and that the United States is vulnerable to the volatility of the global oil market. But with oil and gas in abundance -- due to fracking and horizontal drilling -- the United States is actually projected to overtake Saudi Arabia as the largest oil producer in the world.

So why haven't policies changed to meet this new reality?

  • A number of special interests want to preserve the restrictions, but the main opposition comes from environmentalists, who believe that a natural gas export plan would make avoiding climate change impossible.
  • However, switching from coal to natural gas has already reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by 10 percent, and the use of gas as a transportation fuel would only increase this number.

Despite the opposition, the public is benefiting from U.S. oil production.

  • Oil and natural gas jobs grew by 32 percent between 2007 and 2012, despite an overall drop in employment of 11.4 percent.
  • On top of this, European investors are looking to the United States because of its cheap gas, especially attractive compared to the high energy costs in Europe.

The United States needs to discard its 1970s-era energy policies in exchange for policies that allow America to take advantage of its immense resources.

Source: Will Marshall, "Bringing U.S. Energy Policy Into the 21st Century," Daily Beast, April 1, 2014.

 

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