As I write this article, gas prices in South Texas have plunged to $1.51 per gallon in Portland, $1.55 in Refugio, $1.77 in Taft and $1.78 in Sinton. That’s quite a range, but the prices are sharply lower than they were two months ago.
Gas prices have plummeted even more in some parts of the state. In Justin, located in the Denton area (North Texas), regular unleaded gas sold for 89 cents per gallon. In Stamford, not far from Abilene, you could pay $1.01 a gallon. Several locations in San Antonio were selling gas for $1.19 to $1.22 per gallon.
That’s great for consumers at the pump (although the opportunities to enjoy travel are limited), but devastating for the state’s oil producers. Part of the price plunge can be attributed to a gas war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, which argued for weeks about whether or not to cut production to stabilize prices. The other big reason for lower gas prices, of course, is that people aren’t traveling. With stay-at-home recommendations or orders, business has slowed to a crawl. Those limitations have now been reduced, but things are a long way away from returning to normal. If you aren’t driving very much, obviously you aren’t filling your gas tank as often.
I firmly believe that energy independence is crucial to our national security. I remember all too well those days during the late 1970s and early 1980s when the energy crisis hit our country full force. I was too young to drive at the time, but I do remember people having to wait in line to purchase gasoline and only being able to purchase it on certain days, also in limited quantities.
Foreign nations who sold us the oil from which our gasoline was refined could decide they didn’t like our policies and either hike the prices substantially or threaten to cut our supply. In such a situation, Americans were told that they had better change their policies to suit those foreign nations or else they would suffer at the gas pump — and all other areas of life affected by it.
When American companies began extracting gas from shale, we were able to become energy independent. That’s a great thing for our country’s economy and a great thing for freedom. While I strongly believe in a free market economy, I also believe there are times when the government should step in to help protect our crucial energy industry.
After all, when the foreign competition — which is often not governed by a free market economy — is able to weather the storm of the oil price plunge — and when people begin to travel again — those foreign oil producers can then start to raise prices again or threaten to cut us off.
By waiting us out — and seeing American energy production threatened and severely decline — they can hope to capitalize from the big squeeze placed on American manufacturers.
We need to do what we can to ensure that American oil production is protected from these foreign threats. No one wants to return to the energy crisis of the 1970s and early 1980s.
I talked to some of our oilfield services employers recently, and they are confident that the price of oil will again begin to rebound. The question for them is how long it will take, because people’s livelihood is at stake.
Texas was riding high economically just a few months ago and had an economic stabilization fund (also known as a Rainy Day Fund) of several billion dollars, thanks in large part to the strength of its gas and oil production. With the economy suffering a massive hit, we are now looking at times of cutbacks and turbulence.
There aren’t easy answers to such a looming crisis, but if we allow our nation’s ability to produce its own energy to collapse, there will be a much heavier price in the future than much of the country could currently imagine. And those who would then hold the keys to America’s economic engine – foreign energy producers – would make us pay dearly.
Protecting our energy independence should remain a high priority. We cannot lose that independence, because our ability to enjoy future prosperity and freedom will be severely limited, and many of the decisions our country is able to make today would instead be made by others who do not have our best interests at heart.
Jeff Osborne is the editor of the News of San Patricio and the Refugio County Press.