Closing in on energy independence

Jan. 1, 2012
WHILE the United States hasn't yet achieved energy independence, we are almost close enough to taste it. The United States marked an important milestone

WHILE the United States hasn't yet achieved energy independence, we are almost close enough to taste it. The United States marked an important milestone in 2012.

For the first time in more than 60 years, refined petroleum products topped the list of US exports in 2011. Through the first 10 months of the year, the United States exported 848 million barrels of refined fuels and imported 750 million barrels. The last time the United States was a net exporter of refined fuels was in 1949. Natural gas exports also increased last year.

A number of factors contributed to the fuel export increase, including a boom in drilling activity in the oil and gas shale regions. A special report in this issue of Bulk Transporter examines the oil and gas shale activity and how that is benefitting the tank truck industry.

The American Petroleum Institute recently published a report showing that the oil and gas shale activity are part of the key to achieving US energy independence in the next 15 years. API has laid out a program that could generate 1.4 million new jobs, add $800 billion in cumulative government revenue, and increase daily oil and natural gas production by 10 million barrels. By all accounts, these are achievable targets.

Plenty of people and companies deserve credit for the progress that already has been made toward US energy independence. Along with the exploration and production sector and refiners, the tank truck industry has played a very active role.

That said the current occupant of the White House seems to be the biggest impediment to achieving energy independence at this time. Over the past three years, the Obama Administration has worked fast and furiously to erect the regulatory equivalent of a Berlin Wall seemingly to strangle the petroleum industry in this country.

Some of the most serious damage is being done through the Environmental Protection Agency, with its off-shore drilling moratorium, punitive greenhouse gas emission rules, and threats to restrict the hydraulic fracturing technologies used to open the shale formations. This activity isn't just anti-business and anti-worker; it really seems to be anti-America.

Clearly, the efforts to curb or block increased domestic energy production fly in the face of what most Americans say they want. Many are asking why it is that the Administration seems to be doing everything it can to hinder US efforts to gain energy self-sufficiency and cut of oil imports from countries that support terrorist attacks on this country.

The latest threats from Iran to blockade access to the Persian Gulf provide a fresh reminder of just how critical it is for the United States to achieve energy independence. “We are in a situation that is full of dangers and absurdity,” says Admiral Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence and commander in chief, US Pacific Command. “The United States, which gets no oil from Iran, carries the burden of breaking any blockade that the Iranians may impose, and US consumers will pay higher prices for oil. We need to reduce this trend. We need to drill for more oil in our waters, we need to transition our heavy-duty vehicle fleet to natural gas, and (move) our light-duty fleet to electricity.”

Nearly half of all respondents in a recent survey conducted by the Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions say they believe oil and gas development will have a significant impact on US energy independence. Moreover, eight in 10 respondents link the shale plays with job creation and economic revival.

The economic impact of the oil and gas shale boom already is being felt in the states where drilling activity is heaviest. During the first few months of 2012, for instance, Texas will have recovered all of the jobs lost during the recession.

One recent forecast shows that shale gas production will support 870,000 US jobs and add $118 billion to economic growth by 2035. Increased domestic natural gas supplies could bring in nearly 400,000 new jobs for the chemical industry and its suppliers, according to a recent report from the Council on Competitiveness.

The importance of continuing the push toward energy independence can't be under stated. It is critical for our national economy and our national security. It is perhaps the most important legacy we can leave our children, and we must keep moving forward.

About the Author

Charles Wilson

Charles E. Wilson has spent 20 years covering the tank truck, tank container, and storage terminal industries throughout North, South, and Central America. He has been editor of Bulk Transporter since 1989. Prior to that, Wilson was managing editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter and associate editor of Trailer/Body Builders. Before joining the three publications in Houston TX, he wrote for various food industry trade publications in other parts of the country. Wilson has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and served three years in the U.S. Army.