U.S. energy policy makes no sense

A column by Mike Myer, executive editor of The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — How crazy is U.S. energy policy? Try this:

More than one-fourth of the oil we use in this country comes from other nations. We import nearly twice as much as we did in 1973-74, when the Arab oil embargo caused chaos in the economy.

If you didn’t live through it, you’ll just have to trust me:?It was very bad. I still remember then-President Jimmy Carter advising us to turn down our thermostats, put on sweaters and unplug the outdoor Christmas lights.

Now we’re talking about exporting our oil. And in the context of a nonsensical national policy seemingly calculated to drive energy prices up, that makes sense.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is one of the leaders of a group of lawmakers who want to lift the ban on exports of domestic oil. The prohibition was put in place in reaction to the Arab oil embargo.

Fortunately, the bill Manchin and others favor has safeguards. Exports would stop if the economy is affected adversely, gasoline prices go up, etc.

But here’s the crazy part: Though 27 percent of our oil is imported, government policies discourage domestic drilling to the point we need exports to encourage it.

If we can produce more oil, why aren’t we doing so?

Because nations from which we import, led by Saudi Arabia, have cut prices in an attempt to make it less attractive for drillers to find, pump and refine oil within the United States.

It’s worked quite well. As we report regularly, the number of active drilling rigs in the U.S. keeps going down. It’s cheaper to buy the bargain-basement OPEC oil than to produce our own.

That will change once the Saudis are satisfied they’ve taught us a lesson about trying to use less of their oil.

Now, cheap oil on a long-term basis is available from our friends the Canadians. We won’t be getting that soon, because President Obama keeps blocking the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s just one example of many government policies that make it more difficult to produce oil here, or even import it from friendly nations.

Oh, and did I mention the White House’s insane war on coal – which may send electric bills for tens of millions of Americans up by as much as $1,000 a year?

By all means, let’s allow oil exports so we can get more drilling rigs working.

Then let’s take a good look at a national energy policy folks like the rulers of Saudi Arabia – and Russia – just love.

Myer can be reached at: [email protected].

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