August 2, 2018 500 AM
Hurd on the Hill
Working hard to support our nation’s energy sector is a way of life for Texans. We have consistently been the largest crude oil-producing state, and last year, were responsible for over one-third of all U.S. crude oil production. From the Permian Basin to the Eagle Ford Shale, our state’s booming energy sector puts food on our tables, supports Texas families and keeps our economy strong. But energy production in our backyard is also proving to have broad impacts across the globe and Texas energy is now a viable tool in U.S. foreign policy. A case could be made that the ripple effect of this helped to influence Saudi Arabia, a country that has relied on oil as its chief source of revenue for decades, to recognize that it must diversify economically and modernize domestically partly due to Western competition. Shortly after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman visited the United States earlier this year to discuss his country’s economic modernization plans, the ban on Saudi women driving and attending sporting events was lifted, and movie theaters opened to the public for the first time in decades. While there are many factors driving Saudi Arabia’s move to diversify their economy, the hardworking Texans who drive their trucks to rural rigs and refineries each morning undoubtedly played a role in these developments. Just as U.S. oil production has influenced the Saudis, we can use it to hamstring Russia. In 2016, seven European Union (EU) Member States imported more than 75 percent of their petroleum oil and eleven imported more than 75 percent of their natural gas from Russia. Beyond the obvious economic benefits, this allows Russia to maintain political power to bully energy dependent countries, especially in Eastern Europe. For example, Russian gas company Gazprom recently pledged to terminate its business with Ukraine after it lost an arbitration case with a Ukrainian energy firm. Additionally, Gazprom forgave unpaid Moldovan debts in return for an ownership stake in their national gas distributor. Moreover, Russia’s efforts to increase European dependence on its energy are expanding westward with the development of the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline which will connect Russian gas directly to Germany. Russia is already the leading exporter of natural gas and crude oil to EU countries, providing nearly 30 percent of crude oil imports in 2015 and almost 40 percent in 2016. Coupled with the disinformation campaigns and election meddling, Russian energy dependence puts our European partners in an extremely vulnerable position, while the U.S. misses out on market share. In late 2015, I called to lift the decades-old U.S. ban on crude oil exports and three years later, the results speak for themselves. But while the U.S. is the top global natural gas producer and third largest global crude oil producer, we are only responsible for less than two percent of the EU’s crude oil imports and less than one percent of its natural gas imports. Increasing energy exports to our European partners would have a dual effect of neutralizing Russian influence and strengthening transatlantic trade. Of equal importance is Europe becoming more energy independent and developing its own production capabilities. This is a priority for countries like Moldova and Georgia, who are at the forefront of Russian influence activities, and are relying on the expertise of Texans and other U.S.-based companies to improve exploration, production and development of energy resources within their own countries. Texans should be proud of the role they are playing in strengthening our national security and the transatlantic alliance. Working with NATO and our EU allies is imperative for the United States to reaffirm our commitment to freedom, security and free markets. It is my hope that we use our domestic energy resources as a tool to strengthen our Alliance and achieve all three. Texas’ success is the world’s gain.
This commentary was originally published in the print edition of the Midland Reporter-Telegram on Sunday, July 22, 2018.
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A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as Vice Chair of the Maritime and Border Security Subcommittee on the Committee for Homeland Security, and as the Chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.