By Scott S. Powell, Discovery Institute When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, energy independence was considered impossible, with imported oil accounting for 66% of the oil refined in the U.S. That predicament was a troublesome weak link in U.S. national security. But unexpectedly, with the technology-driven energy boom that began half a dozen years ago, that longstanding vulnerability is now close to being remedied. What Americans can do now is understand and support three key initiatives that together provide more self-sufficiency at home and a stronger energy position in the world. The first game changer started with extracting oil from shale deposits on private lands in continental U.S. with novel horizontal drilling and fracking extraction technologies. The Bakken formation in North Dakota, Eagle Ford in Texas and the Monterey Shale in California are the best known, having some 45 billion recoverable barrels. But lesser known and undeveloped deposits, like the Wolfcamp shale in Texas, may have 50 billion in reserves. These four deposits alone more than quadruple 2010 estimated U.S. oil reserves. But the greatest bonanza may be on public land. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reports that, “More than 70% of American shale oil…lays on federal land in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming…an estimated 1.23 trillion barrels of oil—more than 50 times the nation’s proven conventional oil reserves.” Shale drilling is more costly than conventional drilling, so not all shale deposits can be developed economically. But even if only a quarter of the BLM’s shale estimates are recoverable, the U.S. would be ranked No. 1 in the world in proven oil reserves. A second factor is success in extracting crude oil from oil sands in Alberta, Canada. Canada has the world’s third largest proven oil reserves and is a friendly dependable source for imports, unlike many OPEC nations. The problem with Canadian heavy crude is that few refineries handle it. Thus, the Keystone XL Pipeline was proposed in 2008 as the most efficient and safe way to transport the oil to plants in Texas and Louisiana designed for refining heavy crude it into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel by-products. The third contributing factor for U.S. energy independence is the shale fracking revolution in natural gas production and the substitution of natural gas for oil. The U.S. is now the Saudi Arabia of the world in natural gas, producing more than any other nation and a surplus for export. And as power plants and internal combustion engines get retrofitted to burn natural gas, the demand for oil also declines. U.S. energy independence would be further along, but for the Obama administration’s obstructionism and opposition to fossil fuels. Now at a time when export facilities capability could bolster NATO’s energy needs to counter Vladimir Putin’s natural gas blackmail and further land grabs in the Ukraine, we have none. Consider: •U.S. public lands have been increasingly restricted for energy development during the Obama administration, with the BLM leasing 600,000 fewer acres in 2013 than the previous year and the smallest area leased since the late 1980s; •The 1,931-km (1,200-mile) Keystone XL pipeline remains stalled after five plus years—notwithstanding complaints from grain producers and manufacturers that rail lines are clogged with oil transport and prone to accidents and spills, while 281,635 km (175,000 miles) of existing pipeline already safely transport oil and gas all over the country; and •LNG exports face yet new hurdles with recent EPA instructions to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to withhold permits pending assessment of alleged harmful environmental effects from increased natural gas drilling anticipated to meet export demand. Russian aggression in Ukraine is a wake-up call to support gas and oil exploration and development on public lands, to break ground on the Keystone Pipeline and to streamline bureaucratic red tape on constructing LNG export facilities. Reducing energy costs by increasing supply creates new tax revenues and jobs—two important benefits. But protecting national security with energy independence and providing natural gas to help allies thwart tyrants, terrorists and bad actors make this a top priority. Scott Powell is senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. Reach him at