Friday, December 14, 2007

Energy Policy

Several key facts underline the great importance of our federal government developing a comprehensive strategic national energy plan. It is very unlikely this will get much attention until a new president takes office in January 2009, because our politicians are understandably greatly preoccupied by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as presidential election campaigns.

94% of U. S. energy comes from non-renewable sources, primarily oil, natural gas, and coal. Only 6% comes from renewable sources, mostly hydroelectric, geothermal, and solar. With less than 5% of the population, the U. S. consumes close to 25% of the world's energy. We are by far the world's largest importer of oil with about 10 million barrels per day on average, roughly 50% of our consumption. 15% comes from Saudia Arabia with most of the rest coming from Canada and Mexico, but also, significantly, Venezuela, Nigeria, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.

Obviously, Venezuela and Nigeria are not very politically reliable sources when looking at the future. We should also have concern with Saudi Arabia where there are serious radical Islamic influences and the country is planning huge infrastructure and industrial projects requiring vast quantities of energy, reducing availability for exports. The role of carbon dioxide emissions contributing to global warming is another critical issue that clearly needs to be factored in to a new national energy plan.

The solution is not just government mandated higher fuel efficiency standards for autos and trucks, though that's useful. As almost everyone will agree, we need to move prudently and seriously towards much more energy independence, especially relative independence from Middle East and African sources. The energy plan needs to have major roles for alternative energy source development, especially solar power, much greater nuclear power, new technology based efficiencies for industry, and, yes, meaningful and effective conservation measures.

Individuals, our private sector businesses, and entrepreneurs need to play major roles, but, given the many foreign policy issues and national interests involved, the government, probably through the Department of Energy, must oversee and guide overall development, execution, and monitoring of the plan. This must be a high priority of the next Administration.

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