Energy Independence A Dry Hole?

"The U.S. may be addicted to oil, but many of its politicians are addicted to 'energy independence'--which may be among the least realistic political slogans in American history...

"Now, energy experts across the political spectrum are criticizing politicians' calls for 'energy independence,' saying the goal falls somewhere between pipe dream and economic impossibility....

"Indeed, the U.S. is moving rapidly away from energy independence: Oil imports made up 35% of the nations petroleum supplies in 1973 and 59% in the first four months of 2006, according to the Dept of Energy. Moreover, 66% of the oil consumed in the U.S. is used in the transportation sector where Americans, with THEIR PENCHANT FOR HEFTY CARS WITH BIG ENGINES, ARE BY FAR THE PLANET'S BIGGEST CONSUMERS OF ENERGY....

"In fact, experts say, America's energy fortunes are inextricably linked to those of other countries. Global oil markets are interconnected, with oil prices set internationally. That means supply disruptions anywhere in the world will continue to have an almost instantaneous effect on the pump price of gasoline in the U.S.

"'The real metric on this is not imported oil, but how much oil we use, period,' says Jerry Taylor, senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute who dismisses calls for energy independence as 'rhetorical nonsense that transcends party affiliation.'

"Mr. Grumet's energy commission is trying to get experts to agree that the term 'energy independence' should be dropped. He wants policy makers to focus on curbing oil consumption...

"C. Fred Bergston, an economist and director of the Institute for International Economics, says energy independence is 'ridiculous,' in part because it implies that 'price doesn't matter, that you'll pay any amount to decrease your reliance on imports--and that would be crazy.' He says the U.S. should work toward healthy 'interdependence' by curbing its energy demands while forging alliances with more oil-consuming nations.

"For example, he says, the U.S. and China should be looking for ways to work together. 'We're natural allies; we're both among the world's least efficient users of energy, and we're both big consumers,' he says. 'We should both be on the same side of the table.'

Judith Kipper, a Middle East specialist for the Council on Foreign Relations, says it was counter productive when lawmakers bashed big oil companies and Arab oil producers during the recent jump in prices. 'These people are selling us something we want and need,' she says. 'We refuse to come to terms with our own lack of policy.'"

[Excerpted from an article by John J. Fialka in the Wall Street Journal July 5, 2006.]

Also, it occurs to me that, rather than allowing drilling in the Anwar preserve in Alaska and other environmentally sensitive areas which would not significantly affect our dependence on foreign oil, we should be conserving our own oil for the future and depleting oil supplies from other countries. If the world is on the brink of peak oil production, as some say it is, why be in a hurry to use up our U.S. domestic reserves? I wonder if the Bush administration's motivation for this has more to do with oil company profits than other factors put forth by supporters of drilling in the Anwar preserve.

A useful step to conserve energy conservation would be to take steps designed to encourage Americans to buy smaller, more fuel efficient cars. There are several ways this could be done. The simplest, but probably the most difficult politically, would be to taper in over 5 years an increase in gasoline taxes sufficient to bring the U.S. pump price up to the level of Europe, currently around $6/gallon. Tapering in the tax increase would give auto makers time to plan for a change in their product mix and for customers to adjust their plans to include smaller, more fuel efficient cars. This approach offers simplicity and leaves the vehicle design process up to automotive engineers. The downside is that the gasoline tax is regressive, falling most heavily on the people who can least afford it. Vehicle weight and/or horesepower taxes would be another alternative to increasing gasoline taxes.

Finally, conservation is the first of many steps that will be required to begin to deal with the issue of global warming.

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11 comments

infinitysail 10 years ago

What if a politician proposed a gas tax of $1.50/gal to take effect immediately, with all proceeds to go to R&D aimed at reducing energy consumption and created viable alternatives? Sounds crazy, right? But if we did that five years ago, we would have been paying less for gas then than we do today, and we would have raised billions, if not trillions of dollars for research efforts. Who's to say that we wouldn't all be money ahead in another 5 years or so?


Ralph Deeds 10 years ago

That would be okay with me, but existing automotive technology could provide a huge increase in vehicle fuel economy if our politicians would stop debating over flag burning and adopt legislation that would encourage the production and sale of more fuel efficient vehicles, either with a big gas tax increase and/or a motor vehicle weight and horsepower tax. The same is true for electric power production--the technology for cleaner coal power production exists if Congress would only require power companies to use it. The coal and power lobby led by Peabody Coal Co. has stymied legislative proposals in Washington, as have the automobile and oil companies in the case of fuel economy legislation. In my opinion, the problem is both a scientific and a political problem. But the political problem is more difficult than the science..


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 8 years ago from UK

What a sign of the times Ralph. This hub is two years old, and I've only just found it by working my way through the hubs on Peak Oil front to back. So much has changed since you wrote this hub, most significantly of all, the price of oil.

You suggest that the American driver would start to down-size his car if fuel at the pump were to increase in price. From other, more recent hubs, I've learned that this is exactly what has been happening. Here in the UK prices have been rocketing and people are trying everything they can to become more fuel efficient.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago Author

Thanks for your comment on this critical issue.


cdggt 7 years ago

Looks like I'm late to reading this hub but, it's relevance has only increased. My opinion might be called biased since I work in the energy industry, primarily in oil and gas although I have done some work with wind power.

"Energy Independence" is a silly term. I'd recommend a book called Gusher of Lies by Robert Bryce to get a more solid understanding of why we will never be energy independent. Energy interdependence is the only way to keep energy of any kind affordable. The misinformation coming from both parties and the misunderstanding coming from the American Population is absolutely astounding when it comes to energy.

One myth that quickly needs to be debunked is that Big Oil is as concerned with domestic production as it really is. Independent producers develop 90 percent of domestic oil and gas wells in the U. S. (between 5 and 15 employees each). Another is that prices will ever go back down. Cheap oil is relatively non-existent in the U. S. as we've produced the majority of it. Supply and demand will put upward pressure on oil prices indefinitely. I don't believe that a tax is necessary to spur that price increase.

Where I believe the debate has really run off the rails is that we need a bridge between oil and non carbon based energy. To attempt to make that switch without a bridge is dangerous and needless. Yes, global warming is something that we need to address but we have to be sure that in the process of converting that we don't hamstring our economy with excessive taxes. We need the excess wealth to pay for the conversion.

A simple solution would be natural gas. We are currently sitting on a 250 year supply in the U. S. that is increasing rather than shrinking due to constant new discovery and technology. CNG has half the greenhouse gas emissions as oil and would give our economy time to build the renewable energy infrastructure necessary to make a responsible conversion. It would also create tens of thousands of high paying jobs in the U. S. to help generate revenues to funnel into renewable technology.

Another couple of facts that most Americans don't know:

The number two source of revenues to the U. S. government is royalties for domestic oil and gas exploration.

The U. S. is the number three oil producer in the world. (used to be #4 until the whole Iraq thing)

The U. S. is the only country on the planet that allows private ownership of minerals, which has played a large part in the creation of one the largest percentages of middle class on the planet.


cdggt 7 years ago

correction I should have said LPG instead of CNG. CNG might be a little dangerous to put in cars :)


cdggt 7 years ago

As an aside, on the peak oil issue. I'm absolutely convinced we have either passed it or will pass it within the next few years. The only thing that may have saved us from $200 to $300 per bbl oil is the recession.

BTW U.S. peak oil production happened in the 70's.

I don't think we have enough time to use taxation as a means to convince Americans to curb consumption.


TV 6 years ago

While I would like to hear a lot less talk about energy independence, I

would like to hear a lot more talk about global warming. Specifically, I

would like to hear more meaningful discussion about what, if anything, we

can, and should, do about global warming. There continues to be lively

debate among politicians and in the general press about whether the

anthropogenic global warming hypothesis is true, but little serious

discussion of what the United States should do if it is true.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

I agree. The debate is pretty much over among the scientists. What remains is a public education task and international political agreement on solutions.


someonewhoknows profile image

someonewhoknows 5 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

Practical Guide to Free-Energy Devices

http://www.free-energy-info.co.uk/


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

Thanks! Interesting stuff. I'm going to come back to it when I have time.

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