Can you imagine going to a filling station and not being able to fill up your car, or not being able to get gasoline at all?

Recent headlines from about 8,000 miles away (the approximate distance between here and Saudi Arabia) underscore the importance of America being energy independent — or at least as much as possible.

For many Americans, news that an Iranian backed (or at least instigated) strike on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia meant that gas prices could rise 20 to 40 cents in the coming weeks. That’s definitely not welcome news for most American consumers (unless they have some financial stake in the oil and gas industry), but it’s also not a crippling setback for household budgets or the American economy.

A couple of decades ago, the threat to Saudi oil production would have resulted in a panic throughout our nation, and gas prices would have almost certainly have surged much higher.

One of the reasons why the fear of what’s happening in the Wild Wild Middle East has significantly diminished is that our nation has become much more energy independent.

In 2018, for the first time in 75 years, the United States exported more oil than it imported. That’s an astounding thought. 

From 1949 until that time, America imported more oil (sometimes significantly more oil) than it produced. Through the fabulous 1950s in which cars took on a new importance in the lives and independence of average Americans to the turbulent 1960s, shaky 1970s, booming 1980s and 1990s and as a new millennium dawned, the USA was highly dependent on foreign oil economically and culturally.

In some ways, it still is, but the ability to draw oil from our own resources has definitely helped build a protective barrier around the U.S. economy. Many nations, such as the economic powers of East Asia and most of Europe, do not enjoy that luxury.

We as a nation have been blessed with significant oil and gas resources, as have our neighbors to the north and south in Mexico and Canada.

One result is a diminished fear that foreign nations which do not share our values and love of freedom — or which even outright oppose them — can have control over us. That’s definitely not something to be taken for granted. Suddenly, the words from “America the Beautiful” come to mind “American America God shed His grace on thee ...”

Here in the heart of the Eagle Ford Shale, oil and gas companies are not just turning a profit to benefit themselves and make our local economies stronger, they are doing work that helps keep America independent from the threats of overseas tyrants and manipulators.

I moved to Texas at the young age of 5, and those who remember actually having to pay for gas back then recall that gas cost 28.9 cents a gallon in those days.

A short time later, in the wake of another war between an Arab coalition and Israel, gas prices surged. They would continue to do so throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s.

Beyond that, because the Arab and Islamic dominated Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries didn’t like America’s politics, it decided to curtail the oil imports America depended upon in an effort to punish us, attempt to hurt or control our economy and show us that they were a big dog that we had better behave — or else.

No matter your politics (unless you prefer being dictated to by foreign countries often ruled by tyrants and who are outright hostile to us and our way of life), that’s not a good thing.

I can remember going on vacation as a child and having to wait in gas lines. Gas was 55 cents a gallon with Islamic radicals overthrew the Shah of Iran, installed the Ayatollah, seized American hostages and began a season of humiliation for our nation. Gas prices soon rose to more than $1, and gas stations had to change their signs as a result. In the old days, the gas pumps only told how many cents per gallon the cost was.

Without strong oil production in our country, there’s no telling how much a gallon of gas would cost here, or how much we’d have to bow and scrape to appease foreign dictators determined to control our actions and have us dance to the beat of their drum. Thankfully, that is not the case.

Of course, with the oil boom enriching so many lives and boosting the importance of oil and gas companies, there is still a responsibility to the public. I know the quote came from Spider-Man, but it rings true: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

So those profiting do owe it to our nation, our state and our local communities to operate in an environmentally friendly manner and to also help maintain the roads and infrastructure that allows them access to their vital resources.

Fortunately, I believe the majority of oil and gas companies to take that responsibility to heart. They live in our nation and communities too, most are patriotic and want the best for America, and not just for themselves.

The news still continues to rumble with the threat of conflicts overseas, of disruptions to oil supplies and even the threat of wider war. While I hope that doesn’t happen, we can all rest a little easier in our country knowing that we are not quite so dependent on foreign oil — or threatened by the reduction of it – because production in our own country helps to keep us more safe and also helps to keep us free.

Jeff Osborne is the editor of The Progress. He can be reached at 361-786-3022 or theprogress@mysoutex.com.