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Yet at a consumption rate of 20 million barrels per day, America’s substantial oil reserves are not limitless.
Hence, it is in the national interest to pursue multiple paths to energy independence. That includes nuclear energy; hybrid, hydrogen and battery technologies; conservation strategies; bio-fuels (if they can be weaned off subsidies); and especially fossil fuels from right here in America. But don’t misunderstand “energy independence” as isolation or total self-sufficiency. “The point of independence is not to be an economic hermit,” former CIA director James Woolsey has argued, “but rather to be a free actor.”
As a range of disparate realities continually remind us—the chaos and wars of the Middle East, the capricious behavior of lawless leaders, the limitations of our own distribution channels, the growing energy needs of India and China—we are not really a free actor. Instead, we are just a Mideast crisis or homeland hurricane away from the sort of disruptions that wreak havoc with our economy, play games with our foreign policy and put our troops in harm’s way.
Moreover, the world’s oil safety net, Saudi Arabia, is not always going to be capable of simply turning on the spigot whenever disruptions occur. A diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks in February suggests that Saudi officials privately believe the country’s reserves may be overstated by 40 percent.
By increasing domestic output and production, we can decrease dependence on unstable, undependable regimes and rebalance America’s supply base. AIP concludes that taking full advantage of domestic oil reserves could decrease foreign oil imports by 79.7 percent.
It’s a matter of will, and it’s about time.
Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security issues.