Energy policy and America First

By Brian Wegner


Dear Editor:

Since the OPEC oil embargo in the 1970s, America's energy policy has appropriately (though ineffectively) been focused on energy independence for decades. Now, with the fracking boom providing abundant natural gas (NG) resources plus some oil on top of it, the United States finally has the opportunity to, if not completely achieve, come close to achieving energy independence. So what is our government doing?

Instead of finding ways to use and conserve these vital natural resources for "America First," the government is supporting the oil and gas industry's efforts to export NG and even oil to our competitors. Instead of converting our massive diesel oil trucking fleet to NG as Boone Pickens has been advocating for nearly a decade, we are building NG pipelines to Mexico, exporting certain grades of oil, and constructing liquified natural gas (LNG) port facilities (like Jordan Cove, Ore.). Why? Well, at least for now, we have more NG than we can use. This means relatively low NG prices in the U.S. (around $3/million BTUs) -- lots of supply, while NG prices in our major competitor countries vary between $8-$15/million BTUs. This is a huge competitive advantage for America and our manufacturing! But big oil and gas CEOs aren't happy about these low U.S. NG prices. They can only focus on one thing -- making more money. Increasing demand by creating a world market like oil, meaning higher prices in the U.S. and lower for Japan, China and others.

Who does the money go to? A handful of CEOs and corporate officers. Shareholders (80 percent owned by the wealthiest 10 percent). And yes, some jobs, but not as many as you would think. At what cost? Loss of our current competitive advantage (job losses!), giving away finite national resources forever, and more money spent and lives lost in the Middle East to keep the oil flowing from the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz. What in heaven are we doing? It doesn't sound like "America First" to me.

Brian Wegner
Paonia