The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 9, 2013

Shale oil reserves should stay in the United States

The Back Porch

By Nerissa Young

— My recent monthly credit card bill came in $300 fewer than previous ones. I drive 600 miles to work a week, so I’m thankful for the lower gasoline prices.

U.S. energy production was the topic on an episode of the “Diane Rehm Show” this week on NPR. Panelists said U.S. oil and gas production this year will exceed Russia’s.

Sure enough, the Wall Street Journal reported that a month ago in a story by Russell Gold and Daniel Gilbert. The U.S. is expected to produce 22.2 million barrels of oil and natural gas a day, while Russia is expected to produce 21.8 million barrels a day.

That’s big news. One reason for the U.S. surge, the reporters wrote, is because Russia has not opened its shale fields with hydraulic fracturing.

Energy independence is important to a stable U.S. economy. The story reported U.S. imports of natural gas have fallen 32 percent in the past five years. Crude oil imports have fallen 15 percent in the same period.

Both countries produce more natural gas than Saudi Arabia.

That puts the U.S. in a good strategic position to help shape international energy policy, Rehm’s guests said on her show. Energy equals power on the world stage.

One of the guests suggested the abundance means the U.S. will be able to export oil and natural gas.

Hold on just a minute. Here’s a place where big-government Democrats need to jump in and put a halt to that.

The government should stop any attempts to export oil and natural gas. This country stopped being a free-market economy a long time ago, so it’s disingenuous to think this is an improper action.

The surge in energy production comes from hydraulic fracturing on U.S. soil. Americans should benefit from lower gas prices if their property is going to be disturbed to get it.

Evidence about the harm of hydraulic fracturing remains mixed. While I have qualms about the methods used to recover this natural gas, I’m glad to pay less at the pump. Huge exports will decrease reserves and give energy companies an excuse to increase prices. They don’t need much of one.

This is a case in which isolationism ought to be practiced. Let other countries fend for themselves with their oil supplies. Other countries resent U.S. involvement abroad in what they call “blood for oil” conflicts. The U.S. has an opportunity to step back and should do so.

Oil-producing countries enjoyed gouging Americans when demand exceeded supply. Let them drown in their own reserves. If ours run out, they’ll get to gouge us again.

This is not a time to move away from less energy-efficient vehicles or to start joyriding. Americans should continue to carefully guard their energy consumption, but if hydraulic fracturing isn’t going to stop, then Americans  — and Americans alone — should benefit.

It’s the right thing to do for individuals and the country.

— Young is a Register-Herald columnist. E-mail:

© 2013 by Nerissa Young