Meadville Tribune

Opinion

October 18, 2013

Oil export cutoff anniversary is worth recalling

HARRISBURG — We are about to mark an anniversary — one we’d all be smart to remember before joining the Flat Earth Society that is right now debating whether or not to blow up the state’s economy.

In October 1973 oil exporting nations cut off exports to the U.S. as punishment for our support of Israel — the lone democracy in the Middle East.

Gasoline prices jumped. Home heating prices soared because the price of a barrel of oil dictated the price of everything else energy related. Families were told to turn down the thermostats to 68 or lower, and cars lined up for miles outside service stations that were still running. Inflation combined with a slowed economy to usher in the “era of malaise.”

We were hostages in our own land.

Jump ahead 40 years and consider the words of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal:

“Rising North American shale gas production is an inevitable threat” to the economy of Saudi Arabia.

Think about that. Forty years after the embargo, a major OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) country is worrying about America’s emerging energy independence. They have good reason.

Saudi oil exports to the U.S. have declined, as have exports from Algeria and Nigeria.

And as October got under way, The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S., home of the Marcellus fields, has ascended to the rank of top energy producing country in the world.

We are talking about American energy independence — a term coined amid mile-long gas station lines and in the speeches of politicians who knew we needed to do something, but had no idea what.

Our natural gas resources are so abundant that the prices of oil and natural gas have become decoupled. Time was when a jump in oil prices meant a corresponding rise in natural gas. Not so today. Petroleum is selling at twice what it cost a decade ago. Natural gas prices have fallen by half.

Recently, the Corbett administration announced an initiative to expand natural gas refueling stations on our state’s highways.

Disappointingly, some Harrisburg Democrats are lining up behind their state party’s call for an end to hydraulic fracturing, the technology that made energy independence possible. They are, in short, calling for an abrupt halt to 30,000 direct jobs in the state’s natural gas industry, and an attack on 200,000 more jobs that depend on or benefit from the Marcellus Shale industry.

We’re talking about Marcellus jobs that sustain families, enrich communities and spin off countless economic benefits that reach from the gas fields to the neighborhoods of Philadelphia.

It beggars the imagination that a major party that once professed to care about working people and consumers wants to do that, but that’s what is happening.

If they succeed, it could crash our fastest growing economic sector.

It would cost thousands of jobs.

And it could mark a return to the days of economic malaise and the thermostat police.

Forty years on, we have OPEC worried.

At long last we are winning the battle. We’d be foolish to choose defeat.

Jim Cawley, a Republican, is lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania.

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