Are you old enough to remember when OPEC came after us? The 1973 oil embargo (followed by a bunch of dumb decisions from the Carter White House) left Americans stranded in long lines at the gas station. Could it happen again? Llewelyn Hughes and Austin Long speculated in a recent article that there is one country that might have the power to use oil as a potent weapon. And that country is—wait for it—the United States.
From exploration and production to transportation to refining and distribution, the U.S. plays a pivotal role in the world’s oil and gas markets. If Hughes and Long expanded their analysis to include coal and nuclear power (and if the U.S. government got out of the way and stopped picking winners and losers), America would be without question the world’s energy superpower.
Still, there is little likelihood that America would use its “power” for ill over good. The best energy policy is to let the free market be free. Allowing free markets to “do their thing” in the end will deliver the greatest efficiency, prosperity and environmental benefits.
There is also a case to be made that more free energy markets deliver national security benefits to the U.S. as well.
Legislation is pending in Congress to remove restrictions on oil and gas exports, bad law left over from the 1970s. It remains to be seen if the Hill can get a bill done this year.
Oil might make a great weapon in a Mad Max movie, but not so much as a U.S. way of war. Instead of handing over oil policy to the Pentagon, the White House ought to be focusing on removing restrictions and subsidies for all energy sources.