Politicians across the American political spectrum have long advocated an energy policy that would ultimately lead to a so-called “energy independence”. Time and time again, this independence has been hailed as the solution to the average American paying high gas prices. During the last presidential campaign, Michelle Bachman and Newt Gingrich even announced specific amounts to which they would lower gas prices ($2 and $2.50 per gallon, respectively).
The truth is, there is no such thing as energy independence. A politician claiming he or she can, as President of the United States, lower gas prices in the country is plain dishonesty. Here is why: we live in a global market. Unless the U.S. nationalizes its oil companies (which is unlikely to happen, to put things mildly), American consumers will continue to be competing for gasoline against drivers in other countries. Politicians and energy experts continuously declaring that the key to lower gas prices is more drilling tend to forget that an increase in U.S. oil supply will only decrease prices with regards to a global demand.
Misinformation is, sadly, a key component of this widespread dream that cheap gas at the pump is within the realm of possibility. Take a moment to ponder on these moments: the United States produce 9% of the world’s oil output, while consuming 22% of it. Sadly, for those who want to believe in American energy independence, no amount of drilling in our country can compensate that.
The idea of absolute energy independence as a gold standard for American energy security is one that has been accentuated by politicians on both ends of the political spectrum. As Charles Homans wrote for Foreign Policy magazine in 2012, energy independence could be the “last truly bipartisan policy aim in Washington, and the least plausible one”. With the rampant circulation of the idea that the United States will be energy independent by 2025, we need to look at the crucial question of whether the United States can go it alone. Martin King, an analyst for FirstEnergy estimated that Canada would supply 80% of imported barrels into the U.S. by 2020. Considering this, the closest type of energy independence that the U.S. can reasonably entertain would be continental independence.
What this would mean, is that rather than the U.S. freeing itself from its dependency on all “foreign oil”, the U.S. would just be freed of the burden of having to rely on importing oil from countries that are hostile to U.S. interests. This notion follows the broad idea that the biggest exporters of oil are states that are adverse to American interests. Considering that most American oil imports come from Canada, combined with the first steps toward massive Mexican energy reform, limiting oil exchange to NAFTA countries could be a blessing for American security. As for the potential for North American energy independence creating instability with former partners, Adam Sieminski, administrator of the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration has a response “There are going to be tensions in the Middle East whether that oil is going to the United States or going to somewhere else,” he said. “If oil prices go up because of a problem in the Middle East, that causes a problem for the world in general and not one that is specific to the United States.”