Enjoy Now, Pay Later

As oil imports rise and output falls, the U.S. may face a future shock

To everyone who has bitter memories of the oil shocks of the 1970s, when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries drove oil prices to intolerable heights, today's bargain-basement values seem like sweet vengeance indeed. The U.S. has learned once again to love cheap energy, and why not? Gasoline and home-heating fuels are in plentiful supply. Inexpensive oil helped keep * inflation last year at its lowest level in 25 years, sent interest rates to nine-year troughs and aided in sustaining a four-year-old economic expansion.

But the thrill of cheap energy may prove perilously intoxicating. As U.S. energy consumption increases, imports are...