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America’s Coming Energy Independence

In this Wall Street Journal oped Ed Morse of Citigroup points out a little appreciated fact: that oil and natural gas production is soaring in the United States—and also in our neighbors Canada and Mexico. Thanks to technological developments such as the exploitation of oil shale, the U.S. has become the fastest growing oil producer in the world and is likely to remain that way for a decade or more. Already we produce almost as much oil as Saudi Arabia; soon we will surpass it.  Already we have become a net petroleum-exporting country for the first time since 1949; in the future we have the potential to export far more, or to lessen even more our already declining dependence on oil imports.

That will make us increasingly energy independent and lessen the strategic importance of OPEC. It is also the latest of many reasons why predictions of American decline are so overwrought.

The country that is supposedly going to overtake us—China—has scant energy reserves of its own and is heavily reliant on imports brought by water along sea lines which are either now controlled by the U.S. Navy or could be in a time of war. That places China at a major strategic disadvantage in the long-term. When combined with America’s other advantages—especially the fact that our population is not aging nearly as fast as China’s—this suggests that there is no reason American cannot remain No. 1 for a long time to come, provided policymakers in Washington don’t mess it up. Of course, as seen from the Obama administration’s refusal so far to approve the Keystone pipeline that will bring oil from Alberta tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico, official obstructionism remains a potent obstacle to exploiting America’s natural strengths.