America’s dependence on foreign oil and other fossil fuels threatens our national security, our economic wellbeing, and our environment. With cleaner and cheaper ways to power our businesses, our homes, and our lives available today, the time to transition our economy to a more energy independent future is now, and our generation has the opportunity to lead us into that future.
Currently, there are two cold hard truths when it comes to America’s energy situation:
1) America is addicted to oil
While holding less than 5% of the world’s population, Americans consume nearly one quarter of the world's produced oil. Our nation's transportation sector--cars, trucks, trains and planes--relies on oil for 96 percent of its energy.
2) Oil is increasingly coming from foreign sources
The U.S. holds less than 2 percent of the world's proven oil reserves. In order to meet its needs, the United States now imports 60 percent of its oil from foreign sources.
A Matter of National Security
This situation leads to a heavy national security risk. Oil money is increasingly being used to fund governments and projects that run opposed to U.S. interests. These profits often accumulate in the hands of totalitarian foreign governments that not only repress their own people, but in many cases also fund terrorist cells and training camps that amplify anti-American sentiment.
The strategic importance of oil gives these producing nations great power in world affairs; history has shown that consuming countries will go through great pains to provide protection and forgive transgressions of oil producers as long as petroleum supplies continue to flow. In addition, as many developing nations increase their oil consumption to satisfy the needs of their growing economies, competition for limited oil resources will intensify. This competition has the possibility of leading to international conflict and war.
Oil imports accounted for a third of America’s record trade deficit in 2006 and are responsible for half of the increasing imbalance since 2002. A trade balance so heavily tilted towards imports has the effect of weakening the U.S. dollar in the global economy. This consequently drives up the cost of imported goods, costs passed along to American families. Additionally, as former CIA director James Woolsey told us in a Select Committee hearing, the United States finances its liberal oil spending by borrowing billions of dollars from creditors like Saudi Arabia and China. This dependence makes the United States more dependent on, and vulnerable to, the decisions of other governments.
Foreign Natural Gas
Oil is not the only energy source in which America is dependent. Today, a little more than a fifth of U.S. electricity comes from natural gas. Consumption of natural gas is growing at a faster rate than any other primary energy source in the United States and increased demand has caused prices to spike. Compared to power sources like coal, natural gas produces less global warming pollution, but from a national and energy security perspective, it raises some of the same problems as oil. The Middle East holds over 40 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves and Russia nearly 27 percent. North America holds just 4 percent of the world’s reserves.
The Truth About Domestic Oil
There is a common myth that the United States has become more dependent on foreign oil because it has failed to expand production domestically. The truth is that the United States is not an exceptionally oil-rich area, especially after decades of intensive extraction: proven reserves are only about 21 billion barrels. In contrast, the Middle East has roughly 745 billion barrels in proven reserves. And we've already reached the apex for American oil extraction, as domestic oil production has declined by half since hitting its peak in 1970.
Proposals for expanding domestic oil production into fragile areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are dramatically shortsighted. While damaging a pristine and long-protected environmental area, the additional resources would be a drop in the bucket in reducing the amount of imported oil. Oil fields in the Arctic Refuge would likely produce less in total than what the United States now consumes in six months, and less than 1 percent of the oil we are projected to consume over the 50 year production lifetime. Even at the point of its peak production rate in 2027, it would likely equal less than 2 percent of projected U.S. consumption for that year.
Path to Reducing Oil Dependency
There is a faster, cheaper, and less environmentally damaging alternative to expanding production into the last remaining domestic reserves. It is a recipe for energy security that reduces dependence on this finite resource and opens a path that would eliminate the need for both Arctic Refuge drilling as well as the precarious relationships with oil-rich countries that otherwise would not be allies.
The cornerstone of this path is to reduce demand for gasoline with better gas mileage, develop cleaner fuels from America's farms and other plant resources, and faster deployment of hybrid and fuel cell technologies. We also can promote renewable energy, public transportation and "smart growth" development patterns that reduce driving miles, cut gasoline use, and offer a higher quality of life.
Please visit our Solutions section for more information on America's potential for an energy independent future.
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