America is in a stronger geopolitical position today because of innovative drilling techniques making it possible to access domestic supplies of natural gas, two of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet members said Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke discussed the impact of Trump’s deregulation efforts on the economy and the foreign policy ramifications of American energy independence while fielding questions at CPAC from former Rep. Bob Beauprez, a Colorado Republican.
Perry, the former governor Texas, invoked the memory of President Jimmy Carter’s infamous “malaise” speech in 1979 to drive home the point that “American ingenuity” in the private sector has transformed the energy sector.
Where Carter anticipated a future where “energy shortages” would impose limits on America’s economic potential, entrepreneurs stepped in with technological innovations such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that unleashed domestic energy supplies, Perry said:
Today, the United States of America is the largest oil- and gas-producing country in the world. This didn’t happen because of government regulations; it happened because the government got out of the way and let the private sector do what it does best.
Perry told the CPAC audience that the energy independence achieved by America in recent years has significant implications internationally as well:
We don’t just export liquefied natural gas, we export freedom around the world. Our allies now know that because of American energy coming to their shores, they are free from other countries that would put them in jeopardy and because of American ingenuity we are free. That’s the extraordinary story of the second decade of the 21st century.
Zinke, a former Montana congressman and Navy SEAL, said the fracking process used to access natural gas in shale formations puts U.S. policymakers in a stronger position to avoid conflicts in unstable regions of world.
“As a SEAL, I don’t want your kids to see what I’ve seen,” Zinke said. “Fracking has made such a difference. And I don’t want us to be held hostage by a foreign country, and I don’t want our kids to have to fight overseas because of energy.”
Beauprez asked Zinke to discuss the designations of new wilderness and national monuments imposed by the Obama administration that made it difficult for average citizens to access public lands.
Zinke said he would work to roll back some of those restrictions.
“Public lands belong to the people, not special interests,” Zinke said. “I’m a steward of recreation, hunting and fishing. As Americans, we should enjoy our public lands and not be locked out.”
Zinke said America has struck a balance between regulations and economic activity that holds up well in comparison to other parts of the world.
“No one does it better than the U.S.,” he said. “We have a regulatory framework that ensures accountability. Go to the Middle East and Africa, that’s where the problems are.”
CPAC, the largest annual national gathering of conservative activists, runs Thursday to Saturday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside Washington.