“Energy independence” was first mentioned in the U.S. by Richard Nixon in 1973 when an oil embargo was put in place by oil producing nations in the Middle East. Years later, energy independence – whereby the United States does not consume energy that is not created or found on her shores – is increasingly at odds with reality.
“Energy Security” refers to an association between national and economic security and the availability of sufficient supplies of natural resources for energy consumption at affordable prices. This pertains to our reliance on foreign forms of energy and the implications of supply disruptions and price volatility. “Energy Security” is more widely used now because it is pragmatic and grounded in reality.
Domestic oil output is the highest in eight years, and the United States is the largest producer of natural gas in the world. The U.S. could become the world’s top energy producer by 2020. We met an estimated 81 percent of our energy needs with domestic sources through the first 10 months of 2011. That is the highest level since 1992. In fact, we have increased the proportion of demand met from domestic sources over the last six years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Access to energy at stable and affordable prices is essential to the healthy functioning of modern economies. Throughout the world, the uneven distribution of energy supplies among countries has led to significant vulnerabilities. Turmoil in the Middle East produces uncertainty in the oil market and can cause crude oil prices to soar. The political instability of several energy producing countries, the manipulation of energy supplies and prices, as well as accidents and natural disasters have jeopardized access to these energy supplies.
If natural gas was a larger part of our nation’s energy equation, if we substituted out petroleum fuels for natural gas, we would not be as dependent on energy imports from foreign sources or as susceptible to international incidents and energy market fluctuations as we are now.
The North American natural gas market remains disconnected from the rest of the world, therefore, the political instability in the Middle East does not significantly affect natural gas prices in the United States, which have remained relatively low and stable in the past few years. Making abundant natural gas a larger part of our energy equation should be a cornerstone of energy security.
Energy independence sounds like an admirable goal, but that kind of isolationism could have a negative effect on energy prices, consumers and our economy. What we should strive for is energy security: developing clean, low cost energy here at home while working to secure fruitful, strong trade partnerships in energy and other goods with our global neighbors.