Iran’s September 14 attack on the Saudi oil-production facility at Abqaiq – the world’s largest crude processing operation – was an assault on the global energy supply. However, even after the plant stopped operating, crude prices remained fairly stable.
The minimal economic impact of this attack was a relief, particularly for those of us who remember sky-high oil prices and long lines at gas stations after the oil shock of 1973. It was also further confirmation of America’s move toward energy independence. The American energy sector’s growth is one of the most important recent developments in world politics. It minimizes the Iranian threat and keeps our nation’s oil supply safe.
New Choices, Technologies, and Ships
Many Americans have historically thought about our country as dependent on foreign sources of energy. But today America is a net energy exporter. The U.S. shale boom, expanded domestic drilling operations, and ready supplies of crude oil reserves make this change possible. These developments are parts of a revolution in the U.S. oil and natural gas industries. Natural gas production alone rose by 33 percent since 2008. New technologies like hydraulic fracking and horizontal drilling, as well as the opening of oil fields offshore and in Alaska, will grow these trends in the future. All of this makes our country safer and keeps prices low.
America’s energy resources are used at home and abroad. The first liquid natural gas (LNG) exports from the lower-48 states began in 2016, and the United States became a net natural gas exporter just one year later. Shortly after Congress lifted the ban on U.S. oil exports in 2015, American oil and natural gas started flowing around the world, creating jobs at home and providing our allies an alternative to sources like Iran, Russia, and Venezuela.
After natural gas is extracted, it is often condensed into LNG so that it is easier to export. This product is increasingly being transported on American vessels like the ones made in Mississippi. Last month I joined VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula for a naming ceremony for one such ship, the Q-LNG 4000. What I saw during that event is a testament to the expertise of Mississippi’s shipbuilders. The new ship is also Jones Act-compliant. That means that it is made in America, will be crewed by Americans, and will fly the American flag.
I introduced the bipartisan Energizing American Shipbuilding Act with California Congressman John Garamendi in July to build on this progress. This bill would tie America’s vital maritime industry to our energy sector by requiring a portion of future LNG exports be transported on U.S.-built ships like the Q-LNG 4000.
America’s Energy Industry Makes Us Stronger
Energy and shipping are two of the main reasons our country’s geopolitical position is improving. Oil-producing nations in the Middle East do not have the same stranglehold on global supplies that they did 40 years ago. Vladimir Putin cannot threaten Europe as effectively by turning off gas spigots. And the U.S. government has more flexibility to sanction regimes in Iran and Venezuela for their hostile behavior.
New challenges will emerge, but Americans from across the political spectrum have economic and security interests in protecting and expanding our energy sector. With an innovative private sector and the right public policies, there is no reason the United States cannot be the world’s top energy player. This achievement will strengthen our country and should be a source of pride for all of our citizens.