Today I read this post by another energy blogger, Robert Rapier, in which he advises that rationing petroleum is the only means by which we can realistically achieve energy independence. He does not endorse this plan, but that’s his view on what it would take to achieve energy independence.
Of course, Rapier notes that this isn’t going to happen. But aside from the obvious economic and political ramifications, I would hope that it doesn’t happen because it doesn’t have to happen to move our country as close to energy independence as we can reasonably accomplish.
It’s been said several … times … before that can use domestically produced natural gas as a transportation fuel, as a means to reduce our petroleum imports in the near term. Natural gas can be the bridge to a future in which hydrogen fuel cells become our primary energy source for transport — and how long it takes us to get to that hydrogen future depends on how seriously we prioritize it as a nation. Of course, there is a power generation side to energy independence, as well — nuclear energy, anyone — but the above at least addresses the transportation fuels side of it.
We don’t need to ration petroleum to make all of this happen. We just need the federal government to get over its partisan dysfunction, and enact the practical, comprehensive policies needed to bring this future about sooner, rather than later. And if the federal government can’t or won’t do it, the states and local jurisdictions should. And there are excellent groups, such as LOGA, working on the state level, for example — and we should support their efforts.
(Advance criticism deflection: Oh, Chris, aren’t LOGA, and Boone Pickens, and so on, self-interested in the natural gas solution? Answer: Well, no more than Al Gore profits from his advocacy. Look, I don’t care who gets rich offering solutions, if the solutions make sense. We live in a capitalist system. That’s how it works. I’m comfortable with that. If I thought that ethanol was the answer, I would push for it. And it’s not like ethanol manufacturers are non-profit entities.)
Fine print: Will all of this really lead to complete energy independence? Admittedly, probably not. The world is so interconnected today; it may be impossible for any nation to be completely independent of others when it comes to obtaining and securing affordable and reliable supplies of energy.
If you’ve got a lot of energy resources as a nation, but not the refining or manufacturing capacity necessary to take full advantage of those resources, you’re not energy independent as a nation. And if you’ve got the refining and manufacturing capacity, but not the resources, ditto. And if you’ve got the transportation and storage capacity, but neither the resources, or the refining and manufacturing capacity … you get the picture. And if you’ve got all of the above, but a natural disaster such as a hurricane shuts down enough of your infrastructure to cause shortages of products … you get the picture. But from a practical point of view, maybe this plan can help our country draw an asymptote, if not necessarily a tangent, to the curve of energy independence.
I’m not putting Rapier on blast. Rapier has extensive professional experience in the oil and gas industry. He is aware of the potential of natural gas to fuel vehicles, though it’s not clear to me whether he supports that option over other options for transportation fuels, or even in concert with other options.
What I hope to promote is a broader recognition that there is a good plan out there to produce a lot more of our resources domestically, and to drive a cleaner energy future — and that our policymakers have got a lot of work to do, versus what little they have been doing, if they want to bring all of this about.