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The United States Will Never Achieve Energy Independence

Sunday, May 2, 2010

How long have you been hearing politicians and experts talking about the United States achieving energy independence? Forever is the right answer.

Over the last forty years, 8 Presidents have tried to get a handle on this and all have failed due to a collision of world events, industrial accidents, the arguments of proponents and opponents, lobbyists and environmental groups.

In 1973, with Richard Nixon as President, members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries or the OAPEC (consisting of the Arab members of OPEC, plus Egypt and Syria) proclaimed an oil embargo in response to the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military during the Yom Kippur war; it lasted until March 1974. OAPEC declared it would limit or stop oil shipments to the United States and other countries if they supported Israel in the conflict.

Nixon launched Project Independence, declaring, “Let this be our national goal: At the end of this decade, in the year 1980, the United States will not be dependent on any other country for the energy we need to provide our jobs, to heat our homes, and to keep our transportation moving.”

President Gerald Ford moved the date for achieving American energy independence back to 1985.

On April 18, 1977, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed that achieving energy independence was the “moral equivalent of war.” In August of that year, Carter signed the law creating the United States Department of Energy, intended to manage America’s energy crisis.

Jimmy Carter’s plan was drastically set back by the Iranian revolution which caused a shortfall in oil exports, and prices doubled. Carter, wearing a sweater on national television, urged Americans to turn down their thermostats. “Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977—never,”

Carter, later proposed a sweeping $142 billion energy plan which would achieve energy independence by 1990. Part of his plan included the “creation of this nation’s first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.”

On March 28, 1979, the development of  nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels was stopped dead by the Three Mile Island accident, which was a partial core meltdown. The public’s reaction and fear over nuclear reactors was also stoked by the release of the film The China Syndrome, twelve days earlier.

The anti-nuclear groups, who had predicted an accident of this kind, held protests around the world. Many large anti-nuclear demonstrations took place across the country in the following months. In May, an estimated 65,000 people, as well as Jerry Brown, the Governor of California, attended a march and rally against nuclear power in Washington, D.C.

The largest one was held in New York City in September 1979 and involved two hundred thousand people; speeches were given by Jane Fonda and Ralph Nader. The New York rally was held in conjunction with a series of nightly “No Nukes” concerts given at Madison Square Garden from September 19 through 23 by Musicians United for Safe Energy.

In January 1981, on the day Ronald Reagan became president, he ended the remaining federal regulations on domestic oil supplies and prices; allowing oil prices to fall and rise with world market levels. Oil prices dropped from their peak of $37 per barrel in 1981 to less than $14 per barrel in 1986.

In 1991, President George H.W. Bush announced a national energy strategy to “reducing our dependence on foreign oil.” Bush also met with the “Big Three” automakers and announced a jointly funded U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium — a $260 million research project to develop lightweight battery system for electric vehicles.

President Bill Clinton, in 1992 proposed a BTU tax on fossil fuels to raise money to reduce the deficit. In 1993, Clinton launched the $1 billion Partnership for New Generation Vehicles with the Big Three automakers, aiming to produce a prototype car that was three times more fuel efficient than conventional vehicles by 2004. In 1996, Clinton proposed a comprehensive energy plan which went no where with the Republican-controlled Congress.

In the first months of George W. Bush’s presidency, a series of rolling blackouts struck California so a national energy task force was formed led by Vice President Dick Cheney, where another national energy policy was created. Bush declared, “We can do a better job in conservation, but we darn sure have to do a better job of finding more supply.” “We can’t conserve our way to energy independence.”

That leads us to Barack Obama, who on March 19th of last year said, “So we have a choice to make.  We can remain one of the world’s leading importers of foreign oil, or we can make the investments that would allow us to become the world’s leading exporter of renewable energy.  We can let climate change continue to go unchecked, or we can help stop it.  We can let the jobs of tomorrow be created abroad, or we can create those jobs right here in America and lay the foundation for lasting prosperity.”

As summed up by a report in October 2006 from the Council on Foreign Relations, “National Security Consequences of U.S. Oil Dependency”,

“Over many years and administrations, the U.S. government has failed to pay sufficient attention to energy in its conduct of foreign policy or to adopt a consistent approach to energy issues. The result is that energy matters typically appear on the foreign policy agenda as a surprise, usually in times of crisis, or as the unexpected consequence of other foreign policy actions. The foreign policy apparatus resolves energy issues with ad hoc decisions. As a crisis abates, the issues cease to attract attention.”

So now we have another crisis, this time a massive oil spill that threatens the fishing grounds, the tourism and the eco-systems of the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Due to the explosion of the BP owned Deep Horizon drilling platform, the future development of offshore oil exploration could be stalled indefinitely.

This crisis or any other will not motivate the U.S. to abandon foreign oil. Foreign oil importation has been a national policy for almost 90 years, beginning with World War 1. United States oil companies such as Standard Oil, forged partnerships with British companies to divide up oil exploration rights to most of the Middle-East. They formed multinational consortiums like the Iraq Petroleum Company in 1928. Later with the help of Washington, they gained control of interests in Latin America and Mexico.

Energy crisis? What crisis?

Sources: Oil – The origins of u.s. foreign oil policy, Energy Independence: The Ever-Receding Mirage

Posted: 1800PST


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3 Comments leave one →
  1. cmblake6 permalink
    Friday, May 14, 2010 7:50 am

    Then it’s just way the hell past time to do it, isn’t it? We VOTE this year, we elect some BY_GOD conservatives to power, we crush the moonbats, and we drill. We refine. We develop alternatives in parallel. And we starve the M.E. Done.


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