Hayden R. Ludwig, Foreign Policy Contributor
pinion: America continues to astound. Four centuries after our first ancestors landed their modest ships on these shores, our nation is still discovering the endless bounty of natural resources lying patiently beneath our homeland’s turf. It has made us rich, it has made us secure, and it has kept us free.
Chief among these resources are oil and natural gas. They are substances rightly mingled in the nation’s bedrock, for they are the foundation of our prosperity; and their extraction is the single greatest boon our economy has ever enjoyed. The country that can feed and power its citizens is alone independent, but the country that powers the world is supreme. Thanks to old-fashioned capitalist ingenuity, the United States of America has risen to take its place as the light-bringing, torch-wielding Prometheus of the twenty-first century.
These gains cannot be overestimated. Nearly a decade ago, the average national gas price rose to almost $4 per gallon; today that figure is $2.26 per gallon. Thanks to streamlined, efficient hydraulic fracturing (“fracking” in industry jargon) gas prices dropped by about $1.50 per gallon between 2014 and 2016 alone – amounting to more than $1,000 average annual savings for consumers.
Lower fuel costs bring down food and commodity prices, help governments build and maintain more roads at less expense, and enrich working families. Greater wealth, in turn, begets stronger national security. The country can maintain a world-class navy with lower costs, projecting power into any coast or port on any continent. Our air force can harry enemies and ship soldiers abroad cheaper, and our tanks can drill with allied armored units in Europe more efficiently. Most importantly, though, America’s armed forces can operate without reliance on foreign fuel supplies – promoting the kind of flexibility in foreign policy our ancestors could only dream of.
An energy-independent America can shrug off the yoke of oil-rich tyrannies and conduct an America-first foreign policy. Her businesses can outcompete Russian and Iranian state-owned oil outfits and drive their profits into the dust; while also empowering U.S. allies like Israel and Poland to divert their energy import savings into stronger defensive forces. American energy can be wielded as a tool, and as a weapon; what “big, beautiful deals” on oil and gas imports President Trump negotiates with friendly Poles can also be used to force apathetic Germans and Italians to meet their NATO defense spending commitments.
Western European states are fearful of losing access to Russian oil and natural gas pipelines, one of their main sources of energy, by opposing Moscow too openly. Cheap American energy can be used to wean Europeans off of Russian oil and gas – and fetter them to American energy exports. A Europe thus dependent on American energy could more freely oppose Vladimir Putin’s aggression, and weaken the oil export-dependent regime in Moscow. This arrangement could forever strengthen the West against foreign conspiracies and confirm the U.S. as undisputed leader of the free world.
Such savings would at last ease the heavy burden placed on the shoulders of America’s longsuffering taxpayers. A Europe subservient to this kind of benevolent American empire would find itself incapable of breaking away from Washington, and obligated to face its foes in Moscow, Tehran, Pyongyang, and Beijing. Europe’s parents would have to relearn their duty to care for the safety of their families, and its sons would be forced to become warriors once again, like generations before them.
A Europe indebted to the American Prometheus for its energy would have little choice but to relearn the values of freedom and national dignity under the American aegis. Our wars and our priorities would be Europe’s, for they couldn’t long oppose the country responsible for their fuel supplies. Thus secured, let Europe relearn the values of the Western civilization it once created; this time by the light of that shining city on a hill.
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