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In election years there's always lots of rhetoric to consume and some of it may give you indigestion, but this much is clear: energy independence is an achievable goal and it is indeed a political issue too.
But, no matter whether President Obama is re-elected or whether Mitt Romney is elected president, our reliance on foreign oil will likely decline in years ahead.
According to Steve Everly of the Kansas City Star, the two candidates have vastly different ways to get there, and despite the differences both may bring the U.S. closer to energy independence...
Republican nominee Mitt Romney promises to be more aggressive on drilling for oil and natural gas by opening most areas where it is not now allowed, including off the Pacific Coast. He would also approve the Keystone pipeline, which would boost oil imports from Canada.
President Barack Obama, a Democrat, is pushing an “all of the above” approach and has some differences with Romney’s. Obama would increase drilling, but some areas would remain off limits. He has approved a portion of the Keystone line, but says he won’t make a decision on the northern leg until next year.
The Obama administration in August announced new vehicle fuel economy standards, rising to an average of 54.5 miles per gallon. Romney opposes the new standard.
No matter who is elected, we will be more energy independent every year for the next decade, unless there are some extreme policy changes,” said James Williams, an analyst for WTRG Economics.
There is a range of forecasts to show the point. The Energy Information Administration has one of the more conservative outlooks. The federal agency expects that by 2024 the United States will produce enough petroleum and biofuels to meet 62 percent of demand. Toss in what Canada delivers, and it could rise to 75 percent.
The American Petroleum Institute, an oil industry trade group, wants to unleash the drilling rigs, including into current off-limits areas. By 2024, it says, U.S. production could provide 74 percent of the country’s liquid fuels and biofuels 10 percent more. Toss in a growing contribution from Canada, and the United States wouldn’t need petroleum from any other country.
It's important to understand however, that there are significant problems with forecasts. Everly reports that the Energy Information Administration considers only policies in place when it makes its forecasts, so its outlook for production and energy conservation could be understated. The American Petroleum Institute by contrast is probably overestimating production gains, in part because environmental objections could curb drilling in some areas.
Lastly, Everly notes the importance of Canada for the U.S. to reduce its dependence on the Middle East. Canada accounts for 29 percent of U.S. oil imports and is by far our single greatest supplier. The country reduced oil exports to the United States during the 1970s embargo because it needed the oil for itself, but it is still considered our most reliable supplier. Decisions such as whether to approve the Keystone pipeline could decide whether it will supply more in the future, further reducing imports from other countries.