Should the US have an energy independence plan?

Written By Thomas Ponco on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 | 2:59 PM

The first Sports Cars are considered to be (though the term would not be coined until after World War One) the 3 litre made in 1910 Vauxhall 20 hp (15 kW) and 27/80PS Austro-Daimler (designed by Ferdinand Porsche).

Is Congress motivated by the people or by reelection?

The European Commission today is actively seeking to develop a plan to move away from oil towards alternative fuels in the EU, most recently launching a public consultation on the matter.

Should the US, via a non-partisan forum, also be investigating a straightforward, honest and transparent plan towards US energy independence?

According to some, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, concepts like energy independence are a waste of energy  — no pun intended. Essentially, according to the Council, there is simply no way to end US dependence upon foreign oil in the next few decades, and thinking beyond that is just too far into the future. Hence, the Council suggests that all foreign oil-reducing opportunities need to be utilized, including natural gas, new drilling, fuel efficiency and batteries.

Unfortunately, the Council concludes, those promoting energy independence typically only advocate one technology or pathway, such as new drilling, natural gas or plug-in vehicles. By only focusing on one; however, the Council argues that foreign oil dependence is only guaranteed to be greater than it needs to be, longer than it needs to be.

Others, such as John Stossel, have in the past argued that ideas like energy independence don’t make sense because they are anti-free trade, which means that Americans are stuck with alternatives that leave the US at an economic disadvantage compared to our competitors in the world, especially our emerging competition from Brazil, Russia, India and China. Instead, Stossel argues that free markets achieve the best solutions.

While I understand, and even somewhat concur with Stossel’s point, it’s kind of funny talking about free markets in the energy space when cartels like OPEC and nationalized oil companies, or NOCs, owned by countries like Russia and China are the major players in the energy game. Nevertheless, I do believe that governments, like the US, need to focus on breeding competition when it comes to energy and efficiency, rather than trying to picking winning technologies in some attempt to predict the future.

Likewise, I concur with the Council on Foreign Relations that energy independence is too far beyond the scope of average Americans and; therefore, somewhat distracting. When most voters don’t even know what the legacy effect is nor how it impacts the energy conversation, how can they have a clue regarding the immense difficulty of achieving energy independence? Thus, it’s too easy for politicians to convince many average Americans that just new drilling or just plug-in hybrid cars offer a real plan to timely foreign oil independence, despite the fact it’s so obvious they do not, at least not individually.

Nevertheless, I believe that US energy independence is not only theoretically plausible, but achievable far sooner than the Council believes — if, and only if, the US attacked foreign oil dependence in a non-political, united effort. Think war effort. And it is war, whether we’re talking about Persian Gulf tensions, or economic warfare, with the later probably being the greater long term concern.

Still, even achieving energy independence doesn’t mean the US

Likewise, achieving energy independence will require new trade as well. For example, there isn’t one mainstream car in the US that was manufactured using only US-based resources, and more sustainable and efficient transport solutions will even require further world trade.

Moreover, if the US was capable of achieving energy independence, we’d have a lot more bargaining power in the energy markets. In fact, a move towards US energy independence might be cause for an extension of NAFTA and lead to a new SAFTA, or South American Free Trade Agreement. In fact, AFTA might bring energy independence to all of America far sooner than any other plan, while also creating a partnership for ever more sustainable energy tomorrow, in a win-win for all American countries.

The point is, one day technology will basically enable the US to become sustainably energy independent, and it’ll be more cost-effective than the status quo,

But without a goal and an honest, transparent, step-by-step — yet adaptable — plan to achieve the goal, the US is simply wasting time and resources by enabling politicians and lobbyists to promote self-serving, pork-filled agendas, when it’s obvious to anyone objective, that there are no simple solutions. Sure, that’s a great con for the 87 percent of Congress that most Americans can’t stand to exploit, but it’s not good for the people.

Besides, America shouldn’t be defined by our dysfunctional two party system, but by democracy, by the voice of the people, especially in today’s computer-connected world. Consequently, if a non-partisan report can transparently quantify that energy independence would be a win for most Americans, what’s the downside? Real political change?

It’s time to take the politics out of energy because at the end of the day, only a great compromise can achieve real change. While sustainability is the undeniable future, things like new gas engines, natural gas, even new drilling, might be the only tools that can provide a cost-effective enough bridge to that sustainable future.

In summary, a plan for US energy independence is long over due.

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