America’s energy challenges became apparent during the summer of 2008 as gasoline prices rose to a record four dollars per gallon. The energy crisis became a hot-button issue through the presidential campaign as the candidates came forward with their own situations, but on the issue of energy, we cannot use only use the solutions of Democrats or only those of Republicans. Every tool at this country’s disposal needs to be utilized in order to combat the cost of energy and promote energy independence including the expansion of domestic drilling, and an ‘all of the above’ alternative energy policy. Increased government regulation will only exacerbate the current problems.
In July 2008, then president George W. Bush lifted an executive ban on domestic drilling that was put into place by his father in 1990. At that time, a gallon of regular gasoline cost only $1.16 and emerging industrial powers, namely China and India, were not consuming gasoline anywhere near current levels. As of 2007, 58 percent of total US energy consumption was imported from abroad. This vast dependence on foreign oil hurts America in various ways. Namely, money that would otherwise be spent on domestic drilling operations is being given to the economies of countries in the Middle East and Central America. Some of this money finds its way into the hands of violent regimes through corrupt governments. Examples include Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Another problem with importing a majority of our petroleum is that the end product ends up costing more than it would have if domestically produced. Much of the petroleum that the US buys from abroad comes from OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. OPEC is a cartel, which fixes the price of oil across all of its member nations, with little regard for natural economic forces. This ensures that foreign oil tycoons and thugs worldwide can make hefty profits, all at the expense of Americans. Domestic drilling for oil in America will allow these problems to be avoided. The US government needs to lift constraints on drilling in the Rocky Mountains, in the ANWR of Alaska, and offshore. In the Green River formation of the Rockies, it is estimated that there are 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil; this amount alone is three times greater than the total oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. America is capable of becoming energy independent, but it is ultimately the choice of government legislators to decide whether America will become self-sufficient or remain dependent on rogue dictators for energy.
While fossil fuels power America’s way of life in the present and the near future, continuing to use the same types of energy will not be enough on our quest toward energy independence. Various forms of alternative sources of energy need to be explored. America needs an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy that does not discriminate for or against certain energy sources. This includes wind, solar, and nuclear. The United States gets 57 percent of its energy from coal-fired power plants. This fossil fuel is known to cause air pollution and arguably contributes to global warming. Wind, solar, and nuclear power do not release carbon dioxide or any other greenhouse gasses into the air. These three should be employed around the country whenever possible. Solar power can be utilized in deserts where there are few clouds. Wind turbines can be put into place in windy regions such as coastlines and certain mountainous areas. Both of these will not only contribute to energy production that can eventually pay for itself, but wind and solar energy will help to create thousands of jobs that can not be outsourced. A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists said that 297 thousand green collar jobs could be created by 2025. Nuclear power should also be used as a means of reaching energy independence. Nuclear power plants produce vast amounts of energy through nuclear fission. There are only 109 nuclear power plants in the United States. Combined, they produce 20 percent of US energy. In comparison, there are more than 600 coal-fired power plants in the US, which produce 57 percent of our energy. This means that each nuclear reactor produces about two times the amount of energy as a coal-fired plant while emitting no greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, construction last began on a nuclear reactor in 1977. America needs to build more nuclear power plants if we are to responsibly produce energy. Wind, solar, and nuclear are only a few ways that America can generate power. Any and all feasible methods of energy generation must be researched and adopted.
The quest to end dependence on foreign oil and the push for alternatives faces many opponents in America. Many government regulators are opposed to domestic drilling for oil. They see the corporate use of American land destructive, even if it helps to lower gas prices and reduce foreign dependency. Congress refuses to lift the congressional ban on offshore drilling, even though the benefits are apparent. The greatest crime that the government perpetrates against America’s energy future is the self-selection of alternative energy sources. For example, President Obama’s stimulus bill allocates money for particular alternative energy sources. Nuclear energy is often excluded do to the waste that the process generates, even though there is relatively little. In America, the free market needs to eventually decide the outcome of our many energy sources, not Washington. It will be up to consumers, present and future, to determine whether America moves closer to energy independence.