America’s relatively recent energy revolution has fundamentally transformed the way we find, access, transport, and consume the energy resources that power our economy. Moving from an Era of Energy Scarcity to an Era of Energy Abundance has caught many by surprise and upended global energy markets.
The revolution initially took place outside the public eye, led by relatively unknown companies making huge technological leaps thousands of feet underground. The energy revolution began quietly, mostly on private and state lands, but momentum built up quickly. It occurred as a result of the work of entrepreneurs and the application of technology and cutting edge innovation. One thing is certain: the energy revolution took place in spite of—not because of—U.S. energy policy.
Today, the impacts of the energy revolution are everywhere, turning energy markets on their heads, underpinning a historic resurgence in manufacturing, shifting the center of gravity of energy geopolitics, and improving our international competitiveness and balance of trade. It’s a far cry from the situation that existed as recently as 2008, when energy scarcity was the prevailing theme and peakenergy theories dominated conventional political discourse. Those days are over—or at least they should be.
But it would be folly to believe that the energy revolution’s continued growth and advancement is a fait accompli. Indeed, there are many politicians and groups in the United States whose “Keep it in the Ground” philosophy informs their ongoing work to scuttle the energy revolution. Had they had the opportunity, these groups would have prevented the revolution from happening in the first place.
The truth is that the advent of the energy revolution in the United States was not inevitable, and its future upward trajectory is not a foregone conclusion.
It is heartening to see some politicians embracing the far-reaching benefits that American energy abundance has made possible. But over the last few years, that rhetoric has not been matched by progress on policy. It is also true that many policymakers, despite the benefits, seek to restrict or even ban the deployment of the pioneering technologies that enabled the revolution to take hold in the first place.
Examples of these troublesome policies include: a ban on hydraulic fracturing technology, restricting the development of energy resources on federal lands, opposing private sector investments in critical new pipeline infrastructure, and advancing punitive tax policies aimed at punishing an industry that added hundreds of years of new energy reserves to the country’s supply.