The claim that politics are a lagging indicator of the times seems especially true in light of Republican presidential candidates — campaign promises of U.S. energy independence. Many of the top-tier contenders have vowed to deliver it.
Old habits die hard. An uninterrupted string of presidents dating to Richard Nixon have made this energy independence pledge. But for this crop of contenders, the promise is moot; the country has already achieved it.
Granted, the United States still imports 5 million barrels of oil a day on net — 27 percent of domestic consumption. But this is down 60 percent from the 12.5 million barrels per day imported in 2005. If you exclude the 2.6 million barrels per day of net imports from Canada, the United States imports just 2.4 million barrels per day, a mere 13 percent of consumption.
In 2011, President Barack Obama gave a speech at Georgetown University, where he called for oil imports to be cut by one-third by 2025. No thanks to current policies, the country has already achieved this goal 10 years ahead of schedule. More importantly, imports from OPEC countries, which are no friends of liberty, have fallen even more precipitously — by 46 percent, from 5.6 million barrels per day in 2005 to 3 million today.
Thus, while we may not be truly energy "independent," where we produce every drop we consume, we are by all means energy secure. Americans no longer are threatened with price spikes, rationing and long lines at the pump. (The country has been energy independent in providing heat and electricity for decades.)
For proof of this security, observe how the price of oil is no longer held hostage by the goings-on in the Middle East. The region‘s recent chaos, highlighted by the advance of ISIS, has had little to no effect on the price of oil, which has been trading between $50 and $60 a barrel since December.
Contrast this to when Obama gave his Georgetown speech, when the Arab Spring had sent oil prices above $100 per barrel. This was completely typical for decades, when even the slightest geopolitical machinations in the Middle East sent oil prices spiking and American consumers spinning.
This price security improves the country‘s national security. Foreign policy no longer needs to be influenced by the security of Middle East oil, meaning it can focus solely on true threats to the country. No longer do troops need to secure the flow of oil from abroad, because American private ingenuity has done so at home.
The story of how this energy security has come about is well-known. The shale oil revolution, made possible by fracking, reversed the decades-long decline in domestic supply to the point where oil is not only available, but also priced to sell. This was the first Independence Day weekend where drivers enjoyed gas prices below $3 a gallon, on average, since 2010.
This revolution could have only happened in America. The freedom of U.S. labor laws, its system of strong property rights, the liquidity of financial markets, old-fashioned work ethic and (for the most part) clear environmental regulations necessary for its success are unique to the United States.
This energy security acts as a bridge to an even more secure, affordable and sustainable future. Rather than going back to worn out talking points and calling for energy independence, presidential candidates should make the case for the underlying principles that allowed it to occur in the first place and lead Americans across that bridge. That would truly be a leading indicator.
Doug Haugh is the president of Mansfield Oil and a member of the Job Creators Network.