It’s not often that a member of the Saudi royal family agrees with me, but in January I posted a blog that said “energy independence” wasn’t feasible and claiming America could achieve it wasn’t desirable. And now Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi ambassador to Washington DC, has told editors and reporters at The Washington Times the exact same thing.
“Politicians, when they do that (claim energy independence is achievable), I think they are misleading their publics,” Prince Turki said.
He is right, and while many people will think Prince Turki is being self serving – the Saudis are, after all, the world’s largest oil producers – the fact is that the American public would not stand for the energy price increases that would result if we somehow managed to quickly wean ourselves off of oil or natural gas imports and relied on renewable energy as our dominant energy supply source. Currently renewable energies such as wind and solar – which are far more expensive than the three major fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas – meet about 2 percent of our domestic energy needs.
But the larger point is that energy independence is the wrong goal. Energy security is the proper goal and to achieve that we need more, not less, diversity of supply. That means we need as many kinds of energy supplies as possible, including more liquefied natural gas (LNG), and we need as many suppliers as possible. In other words, to achieve energy security, we need to establish a global energy industry in which as many buyers interact with as many sellers as possible.
Another problem is that when our politicians talk about achieving “energy independence,” it isn’t just the public they mislead. It is also the suppliers. In an interview with American Gas magazine, global energy expert and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Daniel Yergin points out that, on the one hand our political leaders continually encourage energy producers such as the Saudis to increase their energy production and exports, while on the other hand these same politicians keep talking about energy independence. “That is a confusing message for energy-producing nations,” Yergin says.
He is right, too.
A Saudi Prince, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and me. Some days (to coin a phrase) this job is a “gas.”