Permission to speak plainly? The U.S. could approach energy self-sufficiency in the next decade. We are slowly gaining experience in wind and solar, but cost, technical snags and logistics remain unaddressed worries. The EPA’s jihad against coal damaged that low cost piece of the energy puzzle. America’s taste for nuclear is soured by Japan’s calamity, our NIMBY attitude on waste storage and the prospect of more decades of legal, public relations and red-tape battles – just to build one generator. A few brave souls will advocate biomass, geothermal, or harnessing waves and tide movement, but back on earth and in this century we’re left with petroleum and natural gas to fill a big chunk of the US public’s energy needs.
In the US, we consumed 19 million barrels of petroleum each day (m bbl/day) in 2010, and we produced 9.7 m bbl/day (28% higher than in 2005). Of the 8.1 m bbl/day we imported in October 2012, 4.0 m bbl/day came from Canada and Mexico – reliable North American sources. Of the remaining 4.1 m bbl/day we import, a total of 3.4 m bbl/day come from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Venezuela, Algeria, and Kuwait – countries in an unstable region or with overt hostility to US interests, especially Venezuela. The 4.1 m bbl/day is what we need to develop domestically for reasonable self-sufficiency.
The neighborhood containing Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait is dominated by an instability superstar – Iran (primarily Shiite), which has threatened to eradicate Israel, choke the main oil shipping route at the Strait of Hormuz, and has a gunfight– and ambassador killing-animus toward Saudi Arabia (mainly Sunni). Nuclear equipped Pakistan is ready to help Saudi Arabia, if asked. Saudi Arabia wants its own nuclear weapons, especially if Iran develops some. Saudi Arabia has domestic terrorists opposing the Royal family, and some of the princelings fund terrorists who attack non-Sunnis. Iran is blatantly re-colonizing Iraq. Israel, Gaza, Jordan, and Lebanon stand ready for another sectarian war. The Middle East is too insecure and unreliable to rely on for any significant portion of our crude oil imports. Our efforts in propping up potentates and smoothing ruffled sectarian feathers is a huge cost – and it shows up as military graves and higher taxes instead of explicitly higher gas prices at the pump.
So before EPA regulators reflexively strike an enviro-stylish pose on “fracking,” they should favor a pose that helps consumers. They have the opportunity to explain in plain language how their regulations favor the American consumer, how a vote favoring crude oil self-sufficiency will reduce our dependence on disruption-prone regions and funders of our enemies, reduce the need to intervene militarily, and create a “stimulus” by keeping $100 billion a year in US families’ pockets instead of contributing it to OPEC’s $1 trillion in annual revenues. That would be a welcome fresh start by an important agency.
Alan Daley is a retired businessman living in Florida and following public policy from a consumer’s perspective.