EDITORIAL: Today, think about energy independenceMake no mistake about it: The United States today is shackled to foreign petroleum in a way that unduly influences both our domestic and foreign policies. Experts fear our petroleum deficit goes so far as to threaten our future.
Americans celebrate the Declaration of Independence each year this day, but in 2008, it’s time to look ahead rather than at history.
We need an addendum to our Declaration of Independence — one that declares energy independence. Make no mistake about it: The United States today is shackled to foreign petroleum in a way that unduly influences both our domestic and foreign policies. Experts fear our petroleum deficit goes so far as to threaten our future.
The task will be difficult.
Our country was among the early ones to find itself blessed with ample, easy-to-extract petroleum. So naturally, we built our lifestyles around it, from our fondness for motor vehicles to construction of the interstate highway system to the rapid growth of suburbia. We hardly noticed as an increasing amount of oil to sustain that way of life needed to be imported — much of it from Middle Eastern countries. Although untapped deposits remain under U.S. soil, they are becoming much more remote, hard to remove and, thus, more costly. And they will never provide sufficient volume to meet today’s explosive demand.
In a nutshell, we now must tailor our foreign policy in a way that ensures imports will continue, and that could mean paying excessive prices, dealing with the devil or even declaring war. Strategically, we’ve put ourselves into a highly undesirable position.
Even worse, there’s not a quick solution, but we can start planning for the future and make good judgments along the way.
Immediately, we should look at ways to reduce energy consumption. As a nation, we could use more public transportation. In Europe, where nations never had ample supplies of oil, that system already is in place — out of necessity.
We also should look at better ways to construct homes, commercial buildings and factories to make better use of ground insulation and solar warming.
In the longer term, new energy resources must be studied, refined and incorporated.
The biggest challenge might be to reduce demand by addressing population growth. There’s a limit to how many energy-hungry lifestyles Earth can sustain before a bloody tug of war explodes over the world’s scarce resources. Energy independence may be a key factor in the effort to ensure that battle never occurs.