The COVID-19 outbreak has made a lot of things uncertain. Americans don’t know the next time they’ll see toilet paper in a grocery store, let alone whether or not they’ll stay healthy or have a job in a week.
But even amid the chaos, Americans don’t have to worry about fueling their vehicles or powering their homes. The U.S. energy industry has what it takes to weather a crisis of this magnitude, and has already taken steps to secure the nation’s energy supply during the pandemic.
Unlike other major industries, the energy sector always prepares for disaster. It has no other choice. Natural disasters, technological failures, and political upheavals can all throw global energy production into disarray. America’s oil and natural gas firms have contingency plans to manage these and other disruptive events without compromising consumers’ access to affordable energy.
This level of preparedness has helped the industry survive pandemics in the past. U.S. energy producers maintained energy production through recent outbreaks of Ebola, SARS, MERS, and H1N1. COVID-19 may pose a more significant threat to public health and the economy, but the industry’s experience will help energy firms survive even this crisis.
Energy companies frequently update their emergency preparedness policies in light of the most recent COVID-19 developments. Firms across the country share best practices to ensure the swift adoption of these policies.
Most importantly, energy firms have taken steps to protect the health and safety of workers. The industry has implemented comprehensive guidelines for hand-washing, social distancing, and health screenings. Combined with the frequent cleaning and disinfecting of workplaces, these policies help energy firms prevent the spread of disease and maintain safe work environments.
Energy firms have also partnered with government officials to keep the nation running. Oil and gas companies have worked for years to strengthen these public-private partnerships to ensure effective collaboration in times of crisis.
These efforts have already paid off. Industry officials are currently working with the Department of Energy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to ensure that essential supplies of oil and gas remain available.
Ultimately, America’s energy security depends on its energy independence. Thanks in part to advanced drilling techniques — like hydraulic fracturing, which lets companies harness energy resources buried beneath the ocean — the United States leads the world in oil and natural gas production. New technology has also allowed us to tap into shale gas in our nation’s basins and oceans. Between 2000 and 2012, shale gas production increased 12-fold. Production is expected to keep spiking through 2035.
Energy independence is particularly important during crises like the COVID-19 outbreak, when foreign energy providers may not have the ability or desire to sell their resources. Rather than relying on foreign nations, the United States can draw on energy resources produced in Texas, Alaska, or North Dakota.
The COVID-19 outbreak caught the world off guard. Fortunately, planning for unexpected events and quickly adapting to challenges is something the energy industry does every day. No matter what hardships the nation will face in the coming months, Americans can rest assured that our energy supply will remain secure.
Bette Grande is President and CEO of the Roughrider Policy Center, a think tank focused on promoting and defending liberty and free enterprise in North Dakota, and serves as a research fellow for energy issues at The Heartland Institute. Ms. Grande previously served as a North Dakota state representative from 1996–2014.