By Dan Calabrese
Sometimes it makes sense to compromise in politics. Sometimes a deal is a good deal and you should take it, because the country will benefit from it.
And one of the best examples in recent memory is a 2015 deal between the Republican Congress and Barack Obama concerning oil exports and green energy subsidies.
Obama wanted to extend green energy subsidies for several years. The Republican Congress wanted to kill them, and rightly so. They represent terrible policy. But there was an opportunity to do something even more important and more beneficial for the nation.
Obama will willing to make a deal: If Republicans were willing to extend the subsidies for a few years, he would agree to sign a bill that also included the end of oil export ban that had been in place since the early 1970s.
That was huge. Ever since the so-called energy crisis more than 40 years earlier, the U.S. had intentionally hamstrung itself in international oil markets. We would never export any oil because the thinking was that we needed to keep everything we produced here at home just in case of another emergency. This was panic thinking at its worst. The ability to participate in international energy markets gave U.S. producers a real opportunity to increase their return on investment and impact these markets in a way that benefited both American producers and consumers. The ban was never a good idea, but even leaving that aside, it should certainly have been lifted as soon as the oil embargo ended in the mid-’70s.
Yet it had remained all those years. Republicans took the deal. They gave Obama his green energy subsidies and Obama agreed to lift the oil export ban. How is that working out?
The Energy Information Administration announced this month that the port district of Houston-Galveston began exporting more crude oil than it imported for the first time. Houston-Galveston exports in April surpassed imports by 15,000 barrels a day, and by May the difference had grown to 470,000 barrels a day. That port district handles more than half of all U.S. crude exports, which hit a record of two million barrels a day in May.
The export boom is testament to U.S. ingenuity that has driven rapid advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, especially in shale rock. The breakthroughs have lowered drilling costs and put Texas’s Permian Basin at the center of an oil-and-gas drilling revolution that will next year see the state producing more oil than either Iraq or Iran.
Washington also gets credit for removing regulatory hurdles like the oil export ban. Republican leaders in Congress took flak in 2015 for agreeing to extend green-energy subsidies for a few years in return for Barack Obama’s signature on a statutory end to the 40-year-old export ban.
Some conservative pressure groups derided the policy trade as a sellout while liberals complained that ending the ban would serve Big Oil. The real beneficiaries are workers, investors and the overall economy, as well as greater flexibility in foreign policy as the U.S. is less vulnerable to authoritarian oil exporters.
It was actually out of character for Obama to offer that deal. Normally if Republicans didn’t want to give him what he wanted, he ran to the media and accused them of being beasts, brutes and whatever else – knowing full well that the media would dutifully parrot his message.
In this case he must have wanted those subsidies pretty badly, because he paid a heavy price as liberals see it.
U.S. oil producers can now reinvest the profits they make from overseas sales into new technologies like horizontal drilling, which is helping to produce an unprecedented domestic production boom that’s completely emasculating OPEC and its former hold on America and its energy needs.
The green energy subsidies were, and still are, bad policy. But extending them for a few years to get this benefit was a good deal, and it was worth taking. Not every compromise is a good one, but don’t be so knee-jerk opposed to every one you hear about. Sometimes, perhaps rarely, Republicans really do know how to spot a good deal and make it happen.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!