Or rather they’re hitting a new low by volume, not price, which means that we’re actually buying less foreign oil… and paying more for it. This is fine if you’re an environmentalist and you hate oil in general and want people to ride bicycles to work and shiver in the cold during winter. If you’re a human being however and are legitimately concerned about the money we send to terrorists, then nothing has really been solved.
The key isn’t importing less oil, it’s spending less money on oil imports.
While the Washington Post claims that US oil imports are falling to their lowest level since 1987, but Michael Levi points out that oil import spending per GDP is worse than it’s been in any year from 87 to 93.
Imports measured in value relative to the size of the economy aren’t anywhere close to their 25-year lows. (This is because lower import volumes have been substantially offset by higher oil prices.) The result is that projected import spending as a fraction of the economy is higher than import spending was in 1973, the year of the first modern oil crisis. It isn’t far below the figure for 1978, the year before the second crisis hit. And it is double its level in 1988, the year before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and touched off an oil-centered crisis.
Reducing consumption alone isn’t enough, because no matter how Third World we go, a nation of hundreds of millions will still use a whole heaping lot of energy. Trying to both reduce consumption and domestic drilling will simply mean that we buy less oil and pay more for it, because we have no other option.