In light of Saudi Arabia’s and Russia’s current attempts, as well as those of their corporate and government-sponsored accomplices, to kill the American oil and gas industry, it’s important for Americans to be reminded of — or be told about for the first time — what their home-grown energy industry has meant to the country and the world.
At a victory dinner on Nov. 21, 1918, celebrating the end of WWI, the British Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lord Curzon, declared that the “Allied cause floated to victory upon a wave of oil.” Eighty percent of that oil was supplied by the U.S. To ensure there was sufficient oil to serve the energy needs of the Allied military forces, the various war industries and the needs of civilians, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Mark Requa, a Stanford-educated engineer and successful mining operator from San Francisco, to be the first Fuel Administrator, the precursor to today’s Secretary of Energy. Wilson wanted to create a wartime relationship between the government and the oil industry. A cablegram from Requa, dated Sept. 3, 1918, to the U.S. representative to the Inter-Allied Petroleum Conference illustrates the collaboration between the private sector and government. Requa says that the U.S. oil industry “shall probably be able to supply what is needed if absolutely necessary if contention of French is proved that engines have much longer life . . . it is unquestionably our duty to supply fighting grade which I have said will be manufactured in this country.” U.S. oil producers did their part.
Again, during WWII, reliable access to U.S. crude oil gave the Allies their strategic advantage against the Third Reich and the Axis Powers. Marine shipments of crude oil from Texas to the East Coast for the war effort had been coming under constant deadly attacks by German U-boats. In 1942, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, who was also administrator of the Petroleum Administration for War, proposed building a pipeline across the U.S. to avoid the ongoing risk of Germany’s sinking oil tankers off our shores. Ickes formed a government-industry consortium to build the Big Inch and the Little Big Inch pipelines to keep the fuel for Allied ships, tanks and vehicles flowing. The pipelines delivered thousands of barrels of oil and refined products from the heart of the East Texas oil field to our eastern distribution hubs. The Petroleum Administration for War considered the Inch pipelines to be part of “the most amazing government-industry cooperation ever achieved.” U.S. oil producers did their part.
Whether in a medical or a wartime emergency, private businesses, small and large, work hand-in-hand with the government to support our country’s national interests. Our free markets, abundant natural resources, creative technology, the rule of law and — our greatest asset — the American workforce have allowed for advances in industries that are the envy of the world. Since the era of the iconic Spindletop discovery well, the oil and gas industry made up of geologists, engineers, investors, roughnecks, bankers, accountants, truck drivers, techies, dreamers and others has continually improved ways in which to retrieve the energy our nation and the world require.
And since the first decade of this century, our domestic oil and gas producers have deployed state-of-the-art hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies, resulting in an abundance of clean-burning natural gas and oil from shale that fuels the economic growth of this country and other countries. Reliable fuel, whether it’s for refined products, transportation, heating and cooling, cooking, manufacturing or electric generation, is a critical component of a citizenry’s freedom.
Exports of America’s abundant energy products, including natural gas, which, thanks to improved ways of transporting it safely across the seas, is now fungible, are absolutely transforming the world. With the stroke of a pen, not at the end of a gun barrel, agreements to buy and sell oil and gas can be made between willing buyers and sellers separated by oceans. These free-market agreements are upending the Old World Order that has allowed predatory authoritarian governments to hold energy-deprived countries hostage. America’s best hope for peace and economic stability in a shrinking world is the ability to share our energy bounty with countries that, like the U.S., desire growth and opportunity for their people. U.S. oil and gas producers are doing their part, and all they want in return is fair trade, which is no different from what American farmers want.
While all eyes are on the global pandemic, our nation’s military superiority, our citizens’ quality of life and our economic stability are threatened. Russia, Saudi Arabia and their allies are engaging in a strategy to cripple America. They don’t want the U.S. to be energy-independent, and they certainly don’t want us to share our energy with the rest of the world. They are dumping oil on the global market to increase their market share and destroy independent oil and gas producers, men and women who have cracked the code to produce oil and gas more efficiently. Thanks to our oil industry’s resiliency, this type of sinister strategy has failed before.
However, we can’t presume that these countries won’t go to any lengths to kill off an industry they see as a threat. It’s time to invoke sanctions against those countries flooding the market with crude oil. Whether through import tariffs, a recall of aid or other trade sanctions, we must act. Antitrust laws exist in the U.S. to prevent companies from dumping products in the marketplace to drive out competition. This long-standing law governs our trade partners, too. If these countries don’t stop their dumping and backstopping their losses with sovereign wealth funds, which is in clear violation of international trade, the full force of the U.S. government should knock on their doors.
We will be facing challenging days in the months ahead. America cannot afford to lose its energy jobs or the security and independence that is the result of its vibrant domestic energy industry. No country should be allowed to hold our energy security hostage. We are asking President Trump to do what’s best for our country: Save our energy production, Mr. President, so that it can continue to build and protect America. The time is now.
Elizabeth Ames Coleman is a former chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission and Phil Bryant is the former governor of Mississippi.