Ten years before Russia invaded Ukraine, Clifford Krauss, writing in the New York Times, assured readers “US Inches Toward Goal of Energy Independence.”
More recently, in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, America’s oil and gas industry, never one to let an international humanitarian crisis go unexploited, saw the chance to refresh its recurring initiative for energy “independence”, aka “freedom” and “security”. As part of the industry’s coordinated rollout on Twitter and the nation’s op-ed pages, Krauss again surfaced in the Times with, “Our ‘Great Challenge’ of Energy Independence Still.”
So what happened in all those intervening years to the promise of drilling and fracking our way to energy independence and security?
To answer that question, first consider the words of the industry supporter George W. Bush, who once famously said, “America is addicted to oil.” This was one of the truest and most unexpected bits of oratory from a president not known for either. And when you’re addicted, how much does it really matter if your drug dealer is in Saudi Arabia, Russia, or Texas? You’re still an addict.
Next, consider whether catering to an addiction is a pathway to curing it, or even reliably satisfying its cravings. We know, for example, that building more highways and traffic lanes to deal with growth never solves growth, but instead accommodates and encourages it. Similarly, no addict has been cured by being assured of an unlimited supply.
The issue is not the source, but the drug.
Last, consider the subtle conflation in the industry’s messaging that equates oil and gas security with our overall energy security. They are not identical. But perhaps that’s been the aim all along, convincing the public that energy is all about fossil fuels, and nothing but.
What happened in these past 10 years — or didn’t happen — is confirmation that we can’t drill or frack our way to oil and gas independence or security, let alone energy independence and security.
Nevertheless, at a March 16 media event, Republicans in Colorado’s General Assembly called on Gov. Polis and President Biden to repeal what they termed “restrictive” energy policies. Their statement read, “It’s time to unleash our energy and allow Colorado to lead the way in addressing the national energy crisis.”
Senate Assistant Minority Leader John Cooke asserted in an accompanying video that “9 in 10 Colorado voters, 90%, split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats, support the US developing its own domestic sources of energy, rather than relying on other regions of the world.”
Although the words “oil,” “gas,” or “fossil fuels” do not appear in these statements (nor, apparently, in the question Cooke’s survey put to voters), his was preceded by a graphic showing the recent jump in gas prices at the pump, and immediately followed by scenes of an oil pump jack at work in the field.
This conflating of oil and gas production with energy security, speaking generically about energy while showing fossil fuel imagery, may allow Colorado Republicans to claim they were talking about both or either fossil fuels and renewables as needed. But their intent is the same as that of the oil and gas industry: less restrictions on fossil fuels, resulting in more profits, more reliance and more dependence.
So how do we achieve true energy independence and security without shoveling even more subsidies, tax breaks, environmental waivers and the like to the oil and gas industry, even more than the massive amounts they’re currently given?
For America’s future energy needs, the only solution to both the addiction problem and the independence/security problem is decentralized renewable energy. That’s where our real energy security, freedom, and independence will come from.
Our leaders may be inclined to give in to the clout and demands of the oil and gas industry, in turn shifting the focus away from renewables and back to fossil fuel production. But that plays right into the hands of the world’s petro-drug dealers like Putin, now and in the future. As the organization Veterans Energy Project stated in a full-page ad in the April 3 New York Times, “Putin’s war in Ukraine is a powerful reminder of the risks of allowing our economy to be held hostage by fossil fuel companies.”
Amidst all the suffering brought on by this crisis, we have a real opportunity to engage in a Manhattan Project-style initiative to develop renewable infrastructures worldwide. Ultimately, the only way to get clean of an addiction is by getting “free” of the drug, not by being “secure” in its supply.
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