Home > Energy Policy > Now is the moment – to move away from foreign oil?

Now is the moment – to move away from foreign oil?

Yale environment 360

According to the last 8 Presidents of the United States, our nation’s dependence on foreign oil is concerning (at best) and threatens our long-term success (at worst?). Each of these Presidents has supported the reduction or elimination of our dependence on foreign oil sources, but none have succeeded. Today, in an article in Yale Environment 360, Professor Michael Graetz discusses the challenges in breaking a 40-year energy policy losing streak. Before the 1970s, the United States met its oil demand with domestic sources – think Texas Tea and Henry Hub oil spot prices – but, as demand has increased, domestic oil production rates have not been able to keep up. Today, we import approximately 3.5 billion barrels of oil each year. And, while the majority comes from Canada and Mexico, we still import 5 million barrels of oil from OPEC countries EVERY DAY. In the face of these staggering numbers, our current President has declared that we must reduce the amount of fuel that we import. On March 30, I wrote a piece about his 4 part plan to reduce US demand of foreign oil.

  1. Increase domestic oil production
  2. Implement new natural gas industry incentives
  3. Develop biofuel resources
  4. Reduce energy consumption with efficiency
But, according to Professor Graetz, this plan could be doomed for failure in the face of 40+ years of energy policy failures. In his opinion, the key to success does not lie in incentives or encouraging domestic production. Instead, it is found in our ability to establish an energy price that reflects the “true cost” of using these energy resources.
In the thousands of pages of energy legislation and regulations enacted since energy policy came to the fore in the 1970s, Congress has never demanded that Americans pay a price that reflects the true price of the energy they consume. For nearly a decade following the oil embargo of 1973, Congress refused even to allow the price of gas at the pump to reflect the worldwide market price of oil. No one now contemplates requiring gasoline prices to include, for example, the costs of keeping oil moving safely from the Persian Gulf into our gas tanks, or insisting that our electricity prices reflect the costs of coal pollution or of nuclear power safety.
  1. Chad
    April 25, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Fortunately, we don’t have to depend on domestic policy to solve the issue of how to reduce our use of foreign energy resources.
    Increasing global demand for those same resources, primarily from IC in BRIC, will succeed where 8 Presidents failed.
    That silly supply and demand thing will work its magic again.

    “All of a sudden,” those alternative choices will seem like the best /pickens/ at the local bargain bash.

    We aren’t going to pay a price that reflects the true price of fossil energy. No chance. Other global economic forces will shift our tastes.

    Easy. Right?

  2. Chad
    April 25, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    And by the way –
    That is a classic Daily Show clip! It’s always good for a nervous laugh…

  3. Chad
    April 25, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Oh, and lookey what I just stumbled across…

    Study: Algae Could Replace 17% of U.S. Oil Imports


    Of course, Wogan is the one to ask about bio.

  4. April 26, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Chad – thanks for the comments.

    The algae concept is interesting – according to some research at UT, the energy return on investment for algae is less than corn ethanol (which, of course is significantly less than for fossil fuels). But, it’s a domestic resource. Brings up the question of how to properly weigh the value of domestic fuel sources – back to putting a “true price” on energy.

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