American energy independence makes for great political rhetoric. And not much else.
We can thank President Nixon for the term. During the dark days of the 1973 Arab oil embargo, he publicly vowed to wean the United States off foreign energy sources by the end of the decade, an initiative he dubbed “Project Independence.” While things didn’t quite pan out the way he imagined, the dream he conjured has lived on with presidents from both parties ever since.
These days, though, it’s not just politicians who are dreaming. Over the last year, it’s become respectable — even chic, in a geeky, Washington think-tank sort of way — to suggest that the United States might indeed be close to kicking its foreign energy habit. Take this Bloomberg headline from Monday: “America Gaining Energy Independence.” Or this Financial Times article from October: “Pendulum Swings On American Oil Independence.” Daniel Yergin, the renowned oil analyst and Pulitzer Prize winner, now argues that the center of world oil production may be moving from the Middle East to the Western hemisphere.
But even if we’re approaching energy independence, the chances of ever actually getting there are rather slim, especially if our economy is still running on oil in 20 years. Read more.
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