Increased energy security will strengthen U.S. foreign policy
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If the Trump administration is serious about shaking up U.S. foreign policy, increasing U.S. energy security would be a wise first step. In the past, America’s dependence on foreign oil imports from oil-producing countries has constricted its options in the global arena. By pursuing a policy of energy security at home and in our hemisphere, the incoming Trump administration can increase options for itself abroad. While U.S. oil and natural gas production has surged since the start of the shale revolution, there are several key steps the new administration can take to further improve the nation’s energy position.
 
Simplify and clarify the federal permitting process for all sectors of the energy industry. Producing energy is an expensive process, whether it comes from renewable or non-renewable sources. The federal government should not increase those expenses needlessly with prolonged and uncertain permitting processes.

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Streamlining the federal permitting process for energy projects would help smaller energy producers compete with larger ones. Producers would also enjoy greater flexibility to increase or decrease energy production based on market forces, and they would not be locked into unprofitable situations. This would make domestic production more competitive with the centrally managed production in countries like Saudi Arabia.

Undo President Obama’s recent ban on Arctic and Atlantic offshore drilling. Even though the Obama administration claims that the President’s decision cannot be reversed, precedent suggests this is not the case. The Obama administration itself was ready to auction offshore Atlantic oil and gas leases as recently as March, 2016. New technology has made it safer than ever to drill offshore and opening these and additional Arctic areas for energy exploration would drive investment and jobs to local economies. Locating new sources of energy now, even during an oil glut, is key to keeping prices stable and affordable for consumers in the future.

Support America’s energy infrastructure. America’s pipelines and refineries lag far behind its energy production. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline, as Trump has indicated he will do, is merely a starting point. Older pipelines need updating or replacement, such as the Colonial Pipeline that broke down twice in 2016 and caused gasoline prices to spike in the southeast. To ensure America’s energy security and environmental safety, it is essential to outfit pipelines with the latest spill detection technology; repair or replace older pipelines; and construct new pipelines to transport oil, natural gas, gasoline, and ethanol from production regions.

Support the improvement of vital refineries. America’s oil refineries are not optimized to process the type of crude oil that shale oil fields produce. Easing the regulatory burden on retrofitting older refineries and building new refineries would help make the U.S. a more efficient consumer of the crude oil it produces. This would benefit producers and consumers, while decreasing the need for imports.

Improve energy relations with America’s neighbors. The United States can never satisfy the nation’s energy needs in a vacuum nor should it. Luckily, it has friendly energy producing and refining neighbors in Canada and Mexico. Canada, in fact, is America’s single largest oil importer by a large margin. Much of the crude oil Canada imports is returned to the United States as refined products. Mexico is in the process of opening its state run energy industry to privatization. The United States can help secure its energy needs by working together with Mexico and Canada on joint energy infrastructure, exploration, and production initiatives – such as offshore exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and the Keystone XL pipeline. Cooperating with our neighbors on new and better energy technologies – fossil fuel and renewable – will help, not hinder, American energy interests and create jobs.

The United States will never fully detach its energy strategy from outside interests. However, strengthening America’s energy infrastructure, cutting red tape for development, and improving the nation’s relationship with its energy producing neighbors will help insulate U.S. producers and consumers from negative market manipulation and free American foreign policy from foreign oil dependency.

Ellen R. Wald, Ph.D. is a consultant on energy and geopolitics and teaches history and policy at Jacksonville University.


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.