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"Drill, Baby, Drill!" The Correlation of "Energy Independence" Policy in the United States


  • Llewelyn Hughes

    () (Institute for International Economic Policy, George Washington University)

  • Francisco Flores-Macias

    () (LCM Commodities)


In this paper we argue that support for the policy of petroleum autarky cannot be fully understood by relying on an "industry preferences" model, or on explanations rooted in electoral politics that emphasize the economic interests of constituents in oil-producing regions. While these variables likely play an important role, we sustain that the framing of oil as an issue of national security is a determining factor in shaping policy outcomes. We demonstrate the importance of the framing of oil as a strategic resource by investigating policymaking within the United States Congress. To examine what shapes the collective will of Congress towards energy autarky we conduct an econometric study of every relevant vote in the U.S. Senate related to enhancing domestic oil production between 1992 and 2007. Our analysis shows that, after controlling for relevant confounding factors, the politicians' foreign policy position is a strong and significant determinant of domestic oil policy views. In other words, support for petroleum autarky legislation is a function of legislators' beliefs regarding the reliability of the international milieu to supply a strategic resource. Thus, "hawkish" legislators, who view international relations primarily in terms of confrontation, seek to maximize independence and reduce interdependence by expanding fiscal and regulatory support for domestic oil production. This result is robust to instrumental variables and misclassification-corrected estimation.

Suggested Citation

  • Llewelyn Hughes & Francisco Flores-Macias, 2012. ""Drill, Baby, Drill!" The Correlation of "Energy Independence" Policy in the United States," Working Papers 2012-4, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:gwi:wpaper:2012-4

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    More about this item


    oil; rent-seeking; natural resources; government policy; voting;

    JEL classification:

    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • L71 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Primary Products and Construction - - - Mining, Extraction, and Refining: Hydrocarbon Fuels


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