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America on the verge of becoming energy independent, Trump official says

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis discusses President Donald Trump’s policies and impact during the Jesse Helms Center Foundation’s 30th annual lecture series. (CJ Photo by Dan Way)
U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis discusses President Donald Trump’s policies and impact during the Jesse Helms Center Foundation’s 30th annual lecture series. (CJ Photo by Dan Way)

America is poised to become energy independent, and its allies abroad will share the economic and geopolitical benefits, a key Trump administration official says.

Dan Brouillette, Department of Energy deputy secretary, made the case for free-market energy solutions, and President Donald Trump’s policy decisions Friday, May 11, during the Jesse Helms Center Foundation’s 30th anniversary lecture series in Raleigh.

He said President Reagan removed price controls instituted during the Carter years of economic malaise and OPEC oil boycotts. Curbing government overreach and redefining regulations as rules of the road instead of barriers to production allowed technological innovation to flourish.

Trump deserves credit for continuing free-market ideas, Brouillette said. He ended the war on coal while promoting clean coal technology and is looking to reinvigorate the nuclear energy sector. He supports energy efficiency, battery storage of energy, and research and development of renewable fuels.

Combined with hydraulic fracking for natural gas, engineered in part through research and development at national Energy Department laboratories, America has unleashed every energy source it has.

“As a result the United States is now the No. 1 combined oil and gas producer in the world,” Brouillette said. Ten million barrels of crude oil are produced daily, a record high. That’s expected to rise to 11 million next year, and 12 million the year after that.

“Today we stand on the cusp of energy independence,” Brouillette said. He called America’s energy revolution “the greatest boon to foreign policy since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, since the fall of the Iron Curtain, and since the demise of the Soviet Union.”

Presidents no longer have to depend on the world’s volatile regions for energy, the U.S. economy is no longer prone to skyrocketing energy inflation, and foreign dictators and oil cabals no longer can hold U.S. foreign policy hostage with threats of boycotts.

“By exporting our energy we can liberate our friends and allies from dependence on unfriendly nations that use their energy supply as a political weapon,” Brouillette said. That would strengthen the hand of allies such as Ukraine, which is vulnerable to Russia for much of its energy imports.

He called for opposition to environmental activists and movements that want the U.S. to stop expanding or exporting U.S. energy technology because they are against all fossil fuels.

“In their quest for a zero-emissions world they would instruct developing nations to starve themselves from these fuels, even if it means dooming these countries to perpetual poverty and misery,” Brouillette said. One billion people in the world don’t have electricity.

U.S. Rep. David Rouzer, R-7th Congressional District, said North Carolina could be part of America’s energy independence through offshore drilling. He acknowledges he might be the only member of Congress representing a coastal area who supports ocean energy exploration.

Offshore drilling could transform North Carolina into a global energy center well into the future, Rouzer said. Proceeds could pay for beach renourishment, dredging inlets, and other coastal priorities that mayors and county commissioners complain lack funding.

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, North Carolina’s Republican junior senator, said he supported Trump’s executive order to possibly open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas production. It can be done in a way that’s ecologically safe, he said.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina’s senior Republican senator, said getting government out of the way is necessary to maintain military and economic superpower status.

The Trump-backed tax reform package passed by Congress is a good start. Corporate and personal income taxes were reduced.

Burr said that enticed companies to repatriate billions of dollars in capital parked overseas and sparked the rebirth of domestic manufacturing. The unemployment rate is at 3.9 percent, the lowest in more than 20 years, and it appears to be a long-term trend.

He believes the world is on the verge of a 10-year period of disruption brought on by rapid technological advances.

“It’s going to change society. It will change economies, and it will change the geopolitical landscape around the world,” Burr said. “If we’re not ready for that we’ll lose economically, and from a standpoint of global security.”

Trump understands the drag regulatory burdens and cumbersome approval processes have on innovation, production, and growth, Burr said. That’s why he pushes for disruptive changes to government processes and frameworks.

“There are technologies today that will come out next year, that 12 months later will be obsolete,” Burr said.

Other countries rush to get those technologies into production, but in the U.S. it could take years for regulatory approvals. That discourages businesses from investing in new products because they would be obsolete by the time they’re approved. That erodes the nation’s bargaining power on the world stage.

Tax and regulatory reform mostly has been driven by Trump administratively, not by Congress, Burr conceded. The president knows that 3 percent and 4 percent GDP growth is necessary year after year to command international respect, strengthen alliances, and make new friends.

Those policies must be continued and expanded, Burr said. The alternative is a return to the Obama years of policies that shrank the economy and military. He said that allowed for the rise of China through double-digit economic growth, fueling an increase in its military that outpaced the size of its economy.