Can Obama End Our “Addiction” to Foreign Oil?

by Brian McGraw on April 1, 2011

in Blog, Features

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In his speech earlier this week, President Obama took a brave and unprecedented stand against our nations reliance on foreign petroleum imports:

Now, here’s a source of concern, though. We’ve known about the dangers of our oil dependence for decades. Richard Nixon talked about freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil. And every President since that time has talked about freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil. Politicians of every stripe have promised energy independence, but that promise has so far gone unmet.

I talked about reducing America’s dependence on oil when I was running for President, and I’m proud of the historic progress that we’ve made over the last two years towards that goal, and we’ll talk about that a little bit. But I’ve got to be honest. We’ve run into the same political gridlock, the same inertia that has held us back for decades.

That has to change. That has to change. We cannot keep going from shock when gas prices go up to trance when they go back down — we go back to doing the same things we’ve been doing until the next time there’s a price spike, and then we’re shocked again. We can’t rush to propose action when gas prices are high and then hit the snooze button when they fall again. We can’t keep on doing that.

The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity, our long-term security on a resource that will eventually run out, and even before it runs out will get more and more expensive to extract from the ground. We can’t afford it when the costs to our economy, our country, and our planet are so high. Not when your generation needs us to get this right. It’s time to do what we can to secure our energy future.

Richard Nixon wasn’t the only one. As Jon Stewart pointed out last summer, the last eight administrations have warned against the alleged dangers of importing petroleum and provided a number of solutions to massively restructure the economy, none of which were successful. Stewart comments, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me eight times, am I a ****ing idiot?”

And yet we appear to be idiots, and more money will  be spent chasing pipe dreams with taxpayer money. The New York Times, today, congratulated Obama’s willingness to take on such a tough challenge and blamed the lack of progress on, wait for it, Republicans:

Beset by rising gas prices and Middle Eastern turmoil, Mr. Obama, like other presidents, decried the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. He also said there were no quick fixes and that a nation with only 2 percent of the world’s reserves cannot drill its way to self-sufficiency.

He then offered a strategy aimed at, among other things, reducing oil imports by one-third by 2025, partly by increasing domestic production but largely by producing more efficient vehicles and by moving advanced biofuels from the laboratory to commercial production.

These are achievable goals. Reducing oil imports by one-third means using 3.7 million fewer barrels a day. The fuel economy standards set last year by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation will yield 1.7 million of those barrels; the next round of standards, now on the drawing boards at the E.P.A., will yield another 1.7 million barrels. Advanced biofuels and improved mass transit could get us the rest of the way.

None of these goals will be reached if the Republicans who dominate their party have their way. One particularly destructive amendment to the House’s irresponsible budget bill would strip the E.P.A. of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases from vehicles and stationary sources.

It would be great if biofuels and mass transit could get us all the way there, but they can’t. Despite decades of subsidies, corn ethanol has been unable to match the price of gasoline. The U.S. has yet to see even a fraction of 1% of our annual vehicle fuel consumption come from the *insert other hypothetical alternative fuel here* craze, but I’m sure an economically viable breakthrough is right around the corner. Electric vehicles might become the hybrid vehicle of the future, but don’t expect Americans to be convinced unless the range, charging capability, and price issues are solved. High speed rail isn’t thought to pass the cost-benefit test in most areas of the United States.

Republicans are certainly responsible for political gridlock right now (a great thing, one might argue), but plenty of attention has been paid towards these technologies by both sides of the aisle in past years.

dean April 5, 2011 at 9:04 am


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