Sparked from a discussion on the great energy discussion site, OurEnergyPolicy.org | Does Energy Independence = Energy Security?, I share my comment here. I set out to essentially trounce the idea of “energy independence”, but eventually find my way, as usual, into the big picture of energy. “Energy security” is inherently connected to society; it must account for both addressing the supply – how supply feeds demand, but there is the unavoidable question of what should demand actually be, and what is the best way to pursue such demand? Serious strategic discussion of energy has to account for what has led to our current expectations about energy consumption, and how those expectations and understandings may change in the future.
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Does energy independence = energy security?
I think one of the best ways to think about this topic is by thinking about an investment portfolio, and diversifying risk. In its most simplistic terms, it’s whether or not you have all your eggs in one basket – if you do, and something happens to that basket, then you certainly won’t be able to make any omelets.
More to the point, though – ‘energy security’ is essentially a matter of how many options you have to meet your energy needs. You are more insecure the less options you have, and more secure the more options you have, so it’s a direct relationships.
“Energy Independence” is essentially a campaign slogan or otherwise simplistic form of propaganda – in the case of the US, that is untenable, at least currently. (And no, it will not become tenable if Keystone XL is completed, and all federal lands are opened for hydraulic fracturing, and offshore drilling). Fossil fuels, combined, make up about 80% of the current US energy portfolio, in terms of sources. 37% Petrol, 25% Natural Gas, 21% Coal – as per 2010 Energy Information Administration data. The US cannot supply all of those resources itself, and since the 1970s has been declining steadily (Hubbert’s Peak) in domestic oil production, and while there has been a recent break of that trend, it will not bring about “energy independence”.
A personal favorite, and something I will be writing an upcoming article about…
Two weeks ago I read that Dubai will invest $2.7B in solar energy next year. Now Dubai is an emirate surrounded by the world’s largest oil fields and their economy is 250 times smaller than ours, yet they are astute enough to see the consequences of an oil-dependent economy and are willing to invest now in renewable energy in a huge way. Why aren’t we?
US Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert (via CFR.org quote of the day)
Found an interesting interview with Tim Sutherland and Forbes. I completely agree:
In terms of energy, the first thing that comes to my mind is that Americans are not fully educated about the nature of energy policy and the energy business.
Hopefully this article, and some other things I’m trying to do online, will help spread some understanding of energy matters.
In Tim Sutherland, I found this person. Tim is a fellow Creighton Prep graduate, who received a B.A. from Knox College and an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business. In 1976, three years after the OPEC oil embargo, he founded the energy consulting firm, Pace Global Global Energy Services. Today his clients include such publicly traded stalwarts as Alpha Natural Resources, Duke Energy, Green Mountain Energy, Russia’s formidable Gazprom and the diversified mining and hydroelectric powerhouse of Vale, which is headquartered in the resource-rich powerhouse of Brazil.