The price of gasoline and oil is low, so we don’t need to worry about energy policy, right?


Smart energy policy is more important now than ever. And two significant things happened recently that warrant greater attention.

First, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, better known as OPEC, announced its member countries agreed to slow production to bring the global price of oil up.

The OPEC oil cartel is made up of 14 member countries — including Iran, Libya, Algeria, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. But not the U.S. The Saudis alone control one-third of the world’s daily oil production. With their cartel brethren, these countries get together and set production limits to control the price of oil for everyone, including us. Many of them are hardly friendly to our national security interests.

That’s scary because we depend upon OPEC for about one-third of the oil we need every day. As I’ve been saying for years — our dependence on OPEC oil forms the intersection of the three most critical issues we currently face: the economy, the environment, and our national security.

OPEC’s recent decision affects all three of these issues.

More recently, the Paris Climate Agreement was ratified and will take effect starting November 4, 2016. Coupled with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) stricter greenhouse gas (GHG) rules for heavy-duty trucks, we have to make some significant cuts to our emissions.

Unlike many other countries, we have a solution: American natural gas.

We’re blessed to have a supply of natural gas that can solve all of our problems for generations to come, and break the cycle of our independence on foreign oil. We can use it in energy production to supplement increasing reliance on solar and wind energies.

More importantly, natural gas can power any kind of vehicle, and is the only alternative to diesel in heavy-duty trucking use (no, neither electric nor ethanol can do it).

Vehicles powered by natural gas generally emit 13–21 percent fewer GHG emissions on a well-to-wheels basis than their gasoline and diesel counterparts do. And if these vehicles are using renewable natural gas, we’ll see up to a 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions.

That matters to many North Carolinians: Cummins Westport, a leader in bringing new, exciting engine technologies to the transportation industry, manufactures natural gas-powered engines at its plant in Rocky Mount.

They just started production of the ISL G Near Zero (NZ) NOx natural gas engine in Rocky Mount. This near zero emissions engine is a game changer. Imagine what will happen when it is used in transit vehicles, school buses and refuse trucks across North Carolina. The benefit to the local environment will be tremendous.

That success story is one of the many things that excites me about our ability to better leverage our abundance of cleaner, American natural gas. We just need to ensure we’re working to get more of these kinds of vehicles on America’s roads through smart tax policy and regulations. Good thing U.S. Senator Richard Burr has been a leader in that space for years.

This time of the year is about being “loud.” We raise the volume of certain things to bring attention to issues that some believe will resonate most strongly. Accordingly, it’s easy to miss a steady drumbeat that’s been playing in the background. In doing so, it’s easy to miss the most important thing of all.

That’s what I think has been happening on energy.

I’ve been in the energy business for more than six decades. I’ve seen it all—booms and busts. And I believe we can once and for all break the cycle of dependence while contributing to a cleaner future.

In March 2012, Senator Burr gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor in support of legislation that would leverage the power of domestic natural gas as a replacement for foreign, imported oil. He’s been a continued champion for breaking the OPEC stranglehold, maximizing the environmental benefits of natural gas, and letting this American energy source lead our energy future.

That’s what our energy policy — or lack of it — needs: leaders willing to keep their eye on the ball. Leaders willing to stand up and speak up for Americans everywhere. And leaders pushing smart policy.

We can’t afford to get lost in the “louder” conversation. And I’m grateful that Senator Burr isn’t letting that happen.

Boone Pickens is creator of the Pickens Plan, a grass-roots campaign aimed at reducing this country’s crippling addiction to OPEC oil.