WASHINGTON, July 25, 2017 - The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met last week to discuss the outlook for the nation’s energy and resource security. The hearing lauded the end of the domestic ban on crude oil exports in December 2015, noting that America is becoming a major player in the natural-gas export game. On a daily basis, the nation now exports more than 1 million barrels of crude oil.
“That’s the highest rate of U.S. crude exports since 1958, by a factor of two, and even exceeds the exports of five of OPEC’s members,” Mark P. Mills, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, told the lawmakers.
Mills said it would be astonishingly impactful to take the lead over OPEC, benefitting the American economy and national security. While the ban was only lifted 19 months ago, the U.S. is only just getting started, committee members said. Some lawmakers said that opening up more opportunities, such as offshore drilling and gas pipelines, could quadruple energy exports.
“Due to tremendous innovation and technological advances, our nation has moved away from energy scarcity and isolation,” Chairman Lisa Murkowski said. “We are in the midst of a significant surge in oil and natural gas production, with renewables making a noteworthy contribution.”
Though a newfound wealth of natural resources has materialized, witnesses said the country must continue moving forward in alternative energies as well. A diverse energy profile would add to not just energy reliability, but also national security, they said.
“An economy that relies on renewable power for its energy needs would be fundamentally more secure,” said Stephen A. Cheney, the chief executive officer of the American Security Project and a retired Marine brigadier general. “In the United States, transportation is primarily by automobiles, so any proposal to use more renewable energy to increase security (particularly with respect to oil) must begin by either electrifying the auto fleet or significantly increasing the availability and use of ethanol and advanced biofuels.”
Despite record energy advancements in renewables such as solar power and wind power, Mills cautioned that advancements in these technologies are levelling off. He urged the committee to continue its interest in natural gas extraction.
“Of course, those [wind and solar] technologies will get far better,” Mills said. “And of course they’re useful and important. But, as is clear from DOE’s National Renewable Energy Labs data, both wind and solar are now experiencing a declining rate of improvement as those technologies start to approach their limits in terms of what physics permits. They still improve each year, but now necessarily at a slower rate than in the past – and more relevant to our geopolitical future, at a slower rate than shale technology,” Mills said.
The rise in U.S. shale oil reached a landmark in 2014, with production of more than 1.5 million barrels per day. Restarting liquefied natural gas exports just a year ago, the nation is expected to nab a spot in the top three exporters by 2020. Center for Energy Impact’s Senior Director Jamie Webster underlined the unfolding success of American natural gas and oil production.
“The story of the renewal of U.S. oil and gas production is increasingly well known. Less well known is the increased capacity that is supporting it, increasing energy security for the United
States but also the world,” Webster said. “There are concerns about the longer-term durability of North American energy security despite the continued production growth, particularly around oil. Most of these stem from the fact that the analytical community is still learning about shale as its production evolves, and how it will fit into the global picture.”
Public fears surrounding oil production include: high decline rates; drilled but uncompleted wells; dependence on the Permian Basin and its oil reserves; and sufficiency in the global context. Witnesses Webster and Mills felt enough time had passed to call America’s new direction of energy a success.
An archived video of the hearing can be found on the committee’s website.