There is a recurring theme that surfaces most every issue involving America's oil and gas industry: Energy independence. It alternately can be discussed as energy security or increased domestic energy supply.
The bottom line is to be less beholden to an insecure Middle East, where oil and gas supplies are high but so is instability. The approach makes sense. Which is why it has become part of the narrative of anything from the Keystone XL pipeline to new drilling methods such as horizontal fracking, from exploring offshore energy sources to opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said this about the Senate's latest rejection of the Keystone pipeline: "There is overwhelming support for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline across the country because Americans understand the importance of this shovel-ready project to job creation and increasing the supply of North American energy."
Look for a different result once the Republican majority is seated in the Senate come January. Even without this particular pipeline, however, U.S. production is rising.
The most productive approach of late has been expanded fracking. For sake of argument, we'll ignore the correlations being found between hydraulic fracturing, the resulting disposal wells and earthquakes. The state of Kansas -- at least Gov. Sam Brownback -- earlier this year decided there isn't enough evidence that increased oil and gas recovery efforts are connected to the dramatic increase in earthquakes.
Simply looking at productivity, results have been impressive. Bloomberg News reported U.S. crude oil production exceeds 11 million barrels a day, making this country the world leader. The U.S. also leads in natural gas production.
"The U.S. increase in supply is a very meaningful chunk of oil," a Bank of America Corp. researcher told Bloomberg. "The shale boom is playing a key role in the U.S. recovery."
And it is leading to America having to import less petroleum. U.S. trade deficits are dropping accordingly.
Edward Cross, president of the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association, wrote in his monthly column that "U.S. oil production is more than 8.5 million barrels per day, 70 percent higher than in 2008, which shows our energy revolution is just getting started. The Kansas oil and natural gas industry is adding to our nation's energy revolution. Kansas oil production has increased 37 percent during the last 10 years."
That production increase led Cross to speculate: "For the first time in generations, surging domestic oil and natural gas production is driving our energy security and providing a crucial buffer against disruptions in Europe, Africa and the Middle East."
It would seem producing enough oil and gas products for domestic use would lessen our dependence on others. And while imports are dropping, they still amount to more than 10 million barrels per day. The U.S. receives oil from more than 80 countries, including Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela and Russia. Forty percent comes from OPEC countries and 20 percent from Persian Gulf countries.
It does not sound as if we've achieved independence yet. Still, industry forces want Congress to allow companies to export U.S. oil. Cross wrote about it in his column: "We also must work quickly to solidify our role as an energy superpower by modernizing trade restrictions that prevent U.S. oil from reaching global markets."
The oil-export ban was put in place during the 1970s oil scare to address concerns about supply. Arguing to lift the ban because of our recent production boom flies in the face of the "energy independence" plea that preceded the boom. State governments that are ignoring earthquake data are doing so because that boom is driving Gross Domestic Product.
But we don't believe the industry should be allowed to export this petroleum until it truly is excess. The country barely produces more than it imports. Make the United States energy independent, secure and stable before demanding access to international markets.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry