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Achieving American Energy Independence

Every president since Ronald Reagan has promised to achieve American energy independence, and each president has failed. It is time to put an end to the rhetorically powerful speeches that promise energy independence and adapt real strategies that can achieve pragmatic change. These changes will not begin and end with the president: they will begin and end with us. Each of these changes will require tireless public support, and the truth is that the public cannot afford to remain unengaged in the energy debate. An issue that reigns supreme over so much of our lives is not something that can be left to the decision-making power of a few elected officials. By fighting for each of the following policy changes, we can achieve practical energy independence.

Current theories of peak oil only make sense in context of limited domestic oil production, and we have the capabilities to produce far beyond what we are currently producing. If our consumption continues along its current path and we continue to import vast amounts of oil from abroad, we will never be able to sustain our energy needs. If, however, we make smart changes in the way that we build our energy strategy, we could not only sustainably power America for generations to come—we could have an energy surplus. America has ample stores of resources like natural gas, coal, and oil, as well as the potential to be a mass producer of clean energies. By actually tapping into the resources we possess, we could add to our oil reserves and outmatch the oil production of several OPEC countries.

Reforms

We would all like to believe that our energy production is an efficient, streamlined system, but that is far from the truth. Each energy sector could benefit from significant reforms to consolidate the process and increase production. While we certainly need to increase the production of a variety of energy sources, we more importantly need to make sure that our energy departments and agencies are running in the most efficient ways possible. Our regulations should be strict enough to keep energy companies responsible, and no stricter. Current regulations make efficient business practices almost impossible, especially in particular energy fields. EPA reports predict that another coal plant will never be built in the United States. The country that got its start on coal will no longer be able to keep up with the production price associate with following each of the new coal regulations. Sacrificing entire industries for overly beaucratic rules and procedures that limit the ability of the small (or large) business owner to remain competitive is far from traditional American values, and it is something that we should collectively move away from. Continuing reform of environmental law and regulation is crucial in order to modernize the energy industry along with our current needs. Neither our laws nor our energy practices can afford to borrow from generations past any longer: we need to be looking forward in order to achieve energy independence.

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Oil Drilling

Imported oil accounts for 42 percent of oil consumption because domestic oil production is stunted, and often blocked by political figureheads who refuse to increase drilling in U.S. territory. Current federal policies ban drilling in several domestic areas that could go a long way towards establishing energy independence. The first is the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), which houses large stores of oil that are viable for drilling. Democratic leaders have refused to open the area for drilling, but it is one of the largest domestic oil supplies we have. Second, the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas have substantial oil stores that could be tapped to increase domestic oil production. In states like North Carolina and Virginia, offshore drilling is currently banned, but they could generate millions of additional barrels of oil per day. The third source of domestic oil production is the Arctic Shelf, where we could begin drilling to shore up our domestic oil supplies. In Alaska, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, featured as part of Mitt Romney’s plan, also has large stores of oil that could increase energy independence and spur job production at the same time.

By increasing our domestic oil production, we accomplish a few very important tasks. First, we build our oil reserves for emergencies, ensuring that we are never in a position where we face a true energy shortage across the country. Second, we will be depriving oil-based economies like Saudi Arabia and Iran of our massive oil spending, meaning the cash flow into those countries will be severely hampered. Not only will that make it more difficult for country leadership to lash out against the United States, it also means there is less income in the country that can be siphoned off towards violent anti-American groups. This crucial step toward energy independence protects not only our energy agenda, but provides a substantial buffer for international geopolitical events.

Solar & Wind

Solar and wind power have each made significant strides in terms of becoming a viable energy source for generations to come, but neither has the capacity to power the entire grid. Clean energy sources like wind and solar are predicted to power 10 percent of America’s energy needs by 2020. We should be working to make sure these industries succeed. Solar and wind companies have proven that the technology is a winner; now, it is pivotal that these companies begin to implement these energy strategies on much broader scales. In addition, private industry and public pro-renewable resource lobbies should push harder than ever for increased attention in the areas of hydropower, algal biofuels, biomass, geothermal, and tidal energy.

The energy plan that is actually capable of securing America’s energy independence is a multi-pronged plan that does not rely on one or two energy sources. (The single or dual-source model is the way that we currently approach energy strategy, and it is a losing plan.) Instead, we must focus on optimizing the production of every viable energy source and completely restructuring our approach to the energy crisis.

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