Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted November 18, 2015
Interesting analysis on energy independence in the Wall Street Journal by Columbia University’s Jason Bordoff, a former energy adviser to President Obama. It’s a good thing the United States isn’t energy independent, Bordoff writes. That’ll get your attention, right?
As Bordoff explains, “energy independence” is a dusty concept from the 1970s and 80s, after policymakers made it a goal to end U.S. reliance on global crude suppliers after the 1973 oil embargo. It didn’t happen. To the contrary, U.S. imports steadily climbed in the 1990s and 2000s before the significant increases in domestic production, thanks to abundant American shale energy reserves and advanced hydraulic fracturing.
Now, with U.S. energy output surging, the inclination among some is to keep that energy here at home by maintaining the 1970s-era ban on crude oil exports, believing that it lessens others’ ability to disrupt our oil supplies. But Bordoff writes that an “isolationist” approach on energy misunderstands the reality that today’s global energy market is highly integrated and that the interconnectedness of the market has helped the U.S. compensate for supply disruptions here at home and overseas. “Free trade in a highly integrated global energy market made us more secure,” he writes.
Posted November 2, 2015
When the Energy Policy and Conservation Act was signed into law by President Gerald Ford in 1975, Ford said it would put the United States “solidly on the road to energy independence.” The legislation included a ban on most exports of domestically produced crude oil. For many, shutting in domestic oil production – effectively self-sanctioning a vital U.S. industrial sector from the global marketplace – seemed like a good idea. At the time.
The country had been roiled by an oil embargo imposed by exporting states in response to U.S. support for Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Americans learned the meaning of oil shock – long lines for gasoline, odd/even day rationing schedules, shortages and rising prices. The Federal Reserve’s Michael Corbett writes that the embargo nearly quadrupled the price of a barrel of oil to $11.65 – quaintly low in 2015 dollars, but economically crippling four decades ago.
Posted October 29, 2015
Lacking factual, substantial reasons for keeping the United States’ antiquated ban on crude oil exports, those who oppose letting U.S. crude reach the global marketplace are left to make a non-factual, unsubstantial case instead.
In a letter to the editor in the New York Times, the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune offers up a couple of scary fictions – in time for Halloween – to distract Americans from the stark, “off oil” agenda that Brune and many others advocate: a harsher, less healthy, less hospitable world minus the reliable, affordable fuels that are fundamental to modern living.
API President and CEO Jack Gerard recently called them out for the false choice that’s central to their advocacy:
“There is a vocal minority who believe that instead of growing our economy to lift people out of poverty we should reduce our current standard of living and cap our potential. We reject this notion and encourage policy makers to continue down the path we have shown to work, supplying abundant, affordable, and reliable energy to consumers while lowering our impact on the environment.”
Posted October 27, 2015
Reports by Bloomberg and others say that White House and congressional budget negotiators would sell oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to partially pay for their new budget agreement. Sales would total 58 million barrels from 2018 to 2025, according to a draft House bill (see Section 403-a).
How much money would be raised from the sales would depend on prices at the time of the sales. But, if the goal is generating revenue for government to fund worthy projects, rather than a series of one-time sales, why not lift the ban on U.S. crude oil exports and create an annual revenue stream?
According to a study by ICF International (Page 86), ending the 1970s-era oil exports ban would lift the U.S. economy, create jobs – and generate significant additional revenue for government. A number of other studies mirror ICF’s findings on the economic benefits from lifting the export ban. We highlight ICF here because its estimate of additional oil production from lifting the ban (up 500,000 barrels per day) is almost identical to the output increase estimated by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (470,000 barrels per day). ICF:Federal, state, and local governments benefit from crude oil exports both in terms of the generation of GDP, which is then taxed at these levels, but also through royalties on federal lands where drilling takes place. Total government revenues, including U.S. federal, state, and local tax receipts attributable to GDP increases from expanding crude oil exports, could increase up to $13.5 billion in 2020.
Posted October 26, 2015
A couple of reactions to last week’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approval of drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) – which we’ll link to a larger conversation about the Obama administration’s oil and natural gas policies.
First, it’s good that BLM has cleared the way for ConocoPhillips to move forward with a $900 million project that includes construction of an 11.8-acre drilling pad in the 23 million-acre NPR-A. The Greater Mooses Tooth Unit (GMT1) project could host up to 33 wells and could reach a monthly production peak of 30,000 barrels per day. America needs the energy, and producing oil from the vast reserve that was originally set aside for energy development almost a century ago is a welcome step. ConocoPhillips’ Natalie Lowman:
“It’s good news. We’re pleased they issued the permit and the right-of-way and now we’re seeking a funding decision.”
BLM approving this one drilling permit prompts another set of reactions, starting with: It’s about time. And: What about energy development in the rest of the oil reserve?
Posted October 22, 2015
Recent reports assert that some of the world’s oil suppliers have had a strategy to curtail the U.S. energy revolution – and that the strategy has worked, citing U.S. Energy Information Administration data showing U.S. production in decline. Bloomberg this week:
After a year suffering the economic consequences of the oil price slump, OPEC is finally on the cusp of choking off growth in U.S. crude output. The nation’s production is almost back down to the level pumped in November 2014, when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries switched its strategy to focus on battering competitors and reclaiming market share.
Market decisions by major suppliers certainly have impact. Yet, focusing attention on factors beyond U.S. control misses factors under U.S. control that have a clear bearing on the trajectory of domestic oil production, economic growth and American security.
We’ll name a couple: continuing the outdated ban on U.S. oil exports and regulatory and process roadblocks that limit access to energy reserves and production. What we have is an administration whose self-sanctioning approach to U.S. energy is hurting American competitiveness in the global marketplace, to the benefit of other producers.
Posted October 19, 2015
The question Americans should be asking right now: Why is the Obama administration actively working to clear the way for Iran to resume trading its crude oil on the global market while it opposes legislation that would do the same for U.S. oil?
It’s a great question for which the administration can offer no good answer, because there isn’t one.
Yet, that’s the policy disconnect that is unfolding before Americans’ very eyes, with the weekend news that the administration approved conditional sanctions waivers for Iran that at some point will let the Iranians resume exporting their oil to the world – within days of the White House threatening to veto bipartisan legislation in Congress that would end the 1970s-era ban on U.S. oil exports.
Posted October 15, 2015
Reuters reports that Lithuania is in talks with U.S. liquefied natural gas company Cheniere Energy, seeking to reduce its dependence on Russia for LNG supplies. Lithuania opened an LNG import terminal last year, and its gas supply contract with Russian state-owned supplier Gazprom is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Rokas Masiulis, Lithuania’s energy minister:
“We would love to have U.S. cargo in our region to have competition with Gazprom. … I believe negotiations with Gazprom now will be on competitive, reasonable terms and that will be just business and nothing else. … After we have built an LNG terminal, there is no possibility of blackmail. Since we think there is no possibility of blackmail, discussion will be rational and economical rather than political. This is a big step.”
The minister speaks diplomatically, so let’s read between the lines a bit. We suspect that Lithuania is trying to secure the diversification of its energy supply. The country wants options, additional sources of LNG so that it is beyond leveraging by Russia on natural gas. Russia did this with oil in 2006, Reuters reports.
At the same time, Masiulis told Reuters that Lithuania also would be open to buying U.S. crude oil if the United States repeals its current ban on the export of domestic crude.
Posted October 14, 2015
Highlights from API President and CEO Jack Gerard’s conference call with reporters in which he discussed efforts to lift America’s 1970s-era ban on crude oil exports and the positive climate impacts of the U.S. energy revolution in advance of next month’s COP21 conference in Paris.
Last week the U.S. House of Representatives sent a clear message that it stands for a brighter energy and economic future for our nation when it approved with a strong bipartisan majority lifting the 1970s era ban on crude oil exports. We now call on the Senate to do the same. We urge them to unleash our nation’s energy potential by ending this vestige of our nation’s era of energy scarcity, dependence and insecurity.
According to [studies by Columbia University and Brookings/NERA], putting this additional U.S. oil on the world market could reduce the price of a gallon of gasoline by as much as 12 cents a gallon, a significant savings for consumers. American consumers could save about $5.8 billion per year by 2020, [according to an ICF study]. The study also found that by lifting the ban on crude exports could create up to 300,000 American jobs, well beyond oil-producing states. Eighteen states could gain more than 5,000 jobs each in 2020 from the export of U.S. crude oil. Every other major study agrees. …
Posted October 13, 2015
Last week’s bipartisan U.S. House vote to end America’s 1970s-era ban on crude oil exports is stirring needed debate over U.S. energy and trade policy as the exports issue advances in Congress. Unfortunately, much of the conversation remains focused on the wrong things.
For example, export opponents continue to say the United States shouldn’t export crude oil as long as it’s an oil importer. We rebutted that economically faulty position here. Access to global markets means bringing overseas wealth to the United States. Conversely, shutting in a domestic commodity is an obstacle to production and economic growth. The oil imports/exports threshold is one that isn’t applied to other domestic goods – and for good reason: Access to global markets is good for domestic producers.