Energy Independence by 2020 Isn't Fast Enough
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is calling for U.S. energy independence by 2020. While he deserves kudos for taking an important step that will elevate energy in the national debate that accompanies presidential elections, Romney's plan is too tepid, and as T. Boone Pickens points out, it ignores natural gas in the mix of energy resources that need to be exploited.
Although establishing target dates for the accomplishment of major policy initiatives involves some degree of guesswork, in this instance it pays to be aggressive. The United States faces a myriad of problems that make the rapid deployment of our national resources toward achieving energy independence a must. Topping the list are chronically high unemployment that threatens our way of life and federal deficits in the trillion dollar range as far as the eye can see that are leading us toward insolvency.
In 2008, the year Barack Obama was elected president, the U.S. imported almost 13,000,000 barrels of oil per day, or about 57% of our total oil consumption. In that year, we spent almost $500,000,000,000 on imported oil. That's half a trillion dollars that we didn't need to spend, and President Obama has done virtually nothing to solve our problem. In fact, he has made matters worse by over regulating via executive fiat, by repeatedly making disparaging remarks about coal, oil, and natural gas producers, and by funneling our nation's scarce resources toward "green energy" alternatives that are little more than pipe dreams.
Saying that the U.S. is rich in energy resources is an understatement. At today's consumption levels, we have enough coal to meet our needs for the next 500 years. We have 22,450,000,000 barrels of proven oil reserves, and we are finding new oil reserves all the time. According to the American Gas Association,
America's abundance of natural gas is supported once more, as a likely contributor to continued price stability, according to a new report released by the American Gas Association (AGA). AGA released its Preliminary Findings Concerning 2011 Natural Gas Reserves which estimates that U.S. natural gas producers found and replaced more gas than was consumed in 2011, thus reserves have continued to grow.
"We estimate that the national inventory of gas reserves is approximately 300 trillion cubic feet," said Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of AGA. "This 'on-the-shelf' inventory is the foundation along with growing national resource estimates that may point to as much as a 100 year natural gas supply in America. This abundance is helping to reduce prices and increase stability for our customers and also ensuring that that natural gas is America's domestic, clean foundation fuel for now and into the future."
Putting that in perspective, the U.S. has more energy in natural gas than Saudi Arabia has in oil. It's disgraceful that we're putting our economic and national security at risk to import strategic resources that we have in abundance. As I said, Romney deserves credit for making that clear, but he needs to be more resolute in his determination to solve our energy dependence problem sooner rather than later, and he needs to make natural gas a prominent part of his plan for obvious reasons.
It took the U.S. less than 10 years to put a man on the moon, and to accomplish that feat, whole new industries had to be developed. We don't face those kinds of obstacles in energy. We just need to make up our minds to get the job done and do it. At most it should take 6 years, or by the midpoint of Romney's second term assuming that he is elected and re-elected. It's important for him to convey a real sense of urgency that will focus our attention and our resources on energy independence and help to solve our unemployment and fiscal problems before it's too late.
Neil Snyder is a chaired professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. His blog, SnyderTalk.com, is posted daily.