North Dakota's Bakken oil revolution easing global geopolitical tensions
This op-ed ran in The Washington Times's ENERGY 2019 Special Section on September 10, 2019. Click here to read it on The Times' site.
North Dakota has long played a vital role in America’s national security. We are proud to be home to two legs of our country’s nuclear weapons triad. The Minot Air Force Base is home to both the B-52 long-range strategic bomber and the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (alas, there is no home for a nuclear submarine in landlocked North Dakota).
But national security is not solely based upon military might. Over the past decade, North Dakota has undergone an economic and industrial revolution that has secured another strategic security advantage for our country. The Bakken oil field, stretching across western North Dakota, has paved the way towards American energy independence. This newfound energy security is a geopolitical advantage that is reaping benefits for our country and the entire world.
Not long ago, the actions taken by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz would have roiled global oil markets and caused significant price increases. In the past, these events would have triggered ripples in our economy all the way from Wall Street to Main Street. Markets would have (over)reacted and gas prices would have spiked. And those are just the most visible results of energy market upheaval. Commerce and industry that rely on petroleum products would see skyrocketing costs, resulting in price increases on goods ranging from airline tickets to asphalt.
But as we have seen in recent months, that is no longer the case. Thanks in large part to North Dakota’s shale oil revolution, made possible by astounding advances in technology — most notably, hydraulic fracturing — world oil prices have remained remarkably stable. Oil is trading at essentially the same price as it was on Jan. 1, 2019. Technologies developed in North Dakota are now being perfected and deployed in shale formations across the country, insulating the U.S. and our allies from the economic volatility that traditionally follows these types of incidents in the Middle East.
The benefits of energy security manifest in several meaningful ways.
First, the Iranian regime, or any other hostile actor, sees diminished political advantage from their dangerous actions. These events, while gravely serious, no longer cause havoc in world energy markets. This puts America and our allies in a stronger position when dealing with hostile aggression. Our leaders can make decisions without facing pressure associated with rising gas prices and other economic concerns. While Iranian actions are “provocative and hostile,” as President Trump has stated, the effects of their actions are limited. Our response can be calculated towards our long-term strategic goals rather than our short-term political needs.
Second, the American people and the entire world reap the benefits of a stable oil market. Prices move more predictably and are driven by supply and demand instead of hostile actions intended to disrupt the market. Consumers and businesses can more adequately plan everything from a summer road trip to a major capital investment.
Third, there are the jobs. North Dakota’s 1.4 million barrels-per-day oil industry is larger than some OPEC countries and has created over 35,000 high-paying careers at an average salary of more than $98,000. What does that mean for North Dakota? I will let one of my constituents answer.
“Jobs that offered long-term career advancement that would appeal to young adults entering the work force didn’t exist in North Dakota. As a result, our rural communities were shrinking, and we were losing our small-town culture and way of life so many had enjoyed for generations before. The oil and gas industry has completely changed this outlook.”
This young man earned a petroleum engineering degree from the University of North Dakota. He now works in the energy industry in our hometown and is the embodiment of what energy development has meant for small-town America.
Simply put, the United States is stronger and our enemies are weaker because of our energy security. America’s oil production has strengthened our country and our communities. North Dakota is proud to have played its part in our country’s path toward energy independence.
Kelly Armstrong is in his first term representing North Dakota in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he serves on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, as well as the Judiciary and Oversight committees. He’s a former state senator, executive for his family’s oil and gas business, and defense attorney.