The first step is admitting you have a problem. Well, we did that a long time ago. It's no secret that we are:
1. addicted to oil
2. too dependent on foreign oil
3. falling behind in the alternative energy race (China and Germany are getting ahead)
The next step is to do something to fix our problem. Last week, President Obama proposed plans to expand oil and natural gas exploration, explaining the "announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy".
If a moratorium is lifted, exploration would be allowed in the Gulf of Mexico, 125 miles off the west coast of Florida. The President also proposed exploration off the Atlantic coastline from Delaware to central Florida. In total, these plans will open 167 million acres of ocean.
Yes, we are addicted to oil…and our production has not kept up with our consumption. And that leaves us importing more than we produce.
While we are dependent on foreign oil, the good news is that we are not as dependent on oil from the Middle East as it seems. We do get a lot of oil from the Persian Gulf (and from OPEC), but our largest exporter is Canada, followed by Mexico (as of December 2009, Nigeria was third). And in fourth place: Saudi Arabia. Now, Saudi Arabia is an ally of the U.S, but it is also a country that promotes an ultraconservative (and repressive) form of Islam. When we buy oil from Saudi Arabia (and other Middle Eastern countries), we are feeding money to autocratic regimes that are unable to contain the extremism that develops under their authority. And it’s more than that: inevitably, some of our oil money is funneled to charities, religious schools and mosques that support terrorist activities. Our need for oil is indirectly enriching those who hate us the most.
When we buy oil from the Middle East, we perpetuate what New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman calls "petropolitics: as the price of oil goes up, the pace of freedom goes down".
Yes, we buy oil from places that harbor (and nurture) anti-Western agendas, but we buy more oil from our neighbors. Our imports from Canada have grown steadily with our oil demand over the last decade. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that we are falling behind in the clean energy race. How bad is it? According to the Pew Center, 90% of the world’s green technology market is outside the U.S (mainly Asia and Europe).
China is growing much faster than the U.S., and China is on track to surpass the U.S. on alternative energy. To put it in perspective: based on a Pew Center study, in 2009 the U.S. invested $18.6 billion in green energy, while China spent $34.6 billion. Yes- China invested almost twice as much on clean energy. And China has the world’s largest solar panel manufacturing industry (and it export 95% of its product). If we aren’t careful, instead of importing oil from OPEC, we will be importing green technology from China.
And there’s Europe (especially Germany). Germany is quickly becoming a global leader on clean energy manufacturing, and is on track to capture up to 20% of the global market for wind turbines and hydropower and biomass plants, according to the Pew Center.
The alternative energy race is on: China and Germany are already running…and we are still tying our shoes. We need to lace up and get moving…fast. In the meanwhile, a little more energy independence is a worthy pursuit.Disclosure: none