5 Myths About Energy Independence…

This is old hat to a lot of readers here, but Robert Bryce has an excellent article in the Washington Post about the term “energy independence” and how it’s being used (more like abused) by candidates on both sides of the political spectrum in this year’s election cycle.

This would be a good link to throw at someone who thinks our dependence on foreign sources of energy is a problem that can be easily solved by growing some more corn, or getting more hybrids on the road, or switching to hydrogen, or fuel cells, or batteries, etc.

Talking to most Americans about energy issues is like talking to them about fiscal policy… the size of the issues are so large and so complex that most folks’ eyes glaze over when discussing them.  This allows politicians to pander to them with grandiose yet vague ideas about solving our ‘energy problem’ without mentioning the word ‘conservation’ once.

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2 Responses to 5 Myths About Energy Independence…

  1. phaedrus says:

    Sorry, but while I agree that the idea that we’ll achieve energy independence by growing some biofuel and using mercury laden CF bulbs is ludicrous, this guy’s off base.

    To give an example:

    >>>>>>
    5 Energy independence will mean a more secure U.S. energy supply.

    To see why this is a myth, think back to 2005. After hurricanes ravaged the Gulf Coast, chewing up refineries as they went, several cities in the southeastern United States were hit with gasoline shortages. Thankfully, they were short-lived. The reason? Imported gasoline, from refineries in Venezuela, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Throughout the first nine months of 2005, the United States imported about 1 million barrels of gasoline per day. By mid-October 2005, just six weeks after Hurricane Katrina, those imports soared to 1.5 million barrels per day.
    >>>>>>

    While a true solution for energy independence might have some large scale centralized production, to truly work, it will need to focus on significant on-site energy generation.

    Also, even if you do have large sources feeding the grid – solar arrays south west, wind farms on the west coast and the central plains, hydro power where possible, algae based bio-fuel farms wherever you want, etc,. they are most logically distributed geographically.

    These two features make an energy independent grid much more internet like – a multi-headed hydra that is only mildly impacted by geographic (or intentional) disruption.

    Additionally, if your home and transportation is 90% fueled by on-site sources, a disruption in the national grid is a lot easier to cope with than if its all coming through a limited number of oil/gas supply lines.

    I could pick on a number of his other points as well but that’s enough for now. Again, he’s right that we’re idiots if we think a bump in burning our soy and corn will let us keep toodling around in our SUVs indefinitely, but most of the reasons he gives don’t make the argument and are partially or fully flawed.

  2. Bart says:

    I think the point the author is trying to make is that the USA’s energy requirements are so enormous that it will be impossible for us to satisfy it with only domestic energy sources. For most people, being able to generate 90% of their energy needs on-site is a pipe dream, especially when it comes to transportation fuel… assuming of course that we’re talking about maintaining current standards of living (and patterns of energy usage), which is what the author is basing his arguments off.

    Since he’s writing for an energy think-tank, it’s fair to assume a certain bias in his thinking as well. In option #5 he points to increased imports solving our post-Katrina fuel shortages… he doesn’t address the issue of whether other countries are willing and/or able to do that in the future.

    I’m not saying that his article is perfect, but for the average US citizen, it offers a lot of things to think about… especially in a year in which we’re going to be beaten over the head with the idea of ‘energy independence’ regularly.

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