Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, May 28, 2004

How Should We Lessen US Dependence on Middle East Oil?

Hi Everyone,

We've been hearing a lot lately about the need to lessen the US dependence on Middle East Oil. There seems to be a broad consensus that this dependence forces the US to get entangled in messy conflicts in the Middle East that it would otherwise avoid (not sure this is a valid assumption but let's leave that alone for now). However, that seems to be where the consensus ends. Here is a brief presentation of some of the more often proposed options:

Option 1) Increase our imports from outside the Middle East. PRO: This would be a relatively cheap way out. Russia (a big potential oil exporter) and most African, Latin American and Asian producers are not in OPEC so increasing their role in the world oil market would tend to weaken OPEC and presumably lower the price of oil. We could impose many of the environmental costs of drilling on other countries. At the same time, US companies would likely be heavily involved in extracting, shipping and selling the stuff which would mean a tidy economic benefit for American business interests CON: We'd still be importing oil. Also, most of these non-Middle Eastern countries have many of the same problems with dictatorships, political instability, terrorist/rebel movements etc that make us worry about Middle East oil.

Option 2) Increase drilling in the US. PRO: We wouldn't be importing the oil anymore. The US would not have to depend on unstable, tin-pot dictatorships for its energy supply. This would mean more jobs and not all of them would be on the North Shore of Alaska. A lot of them would be in Southern states like Texas and Louisiana. CON: This is a short term solution at best. After we pump out all the oil in Alaska, the Gulf Coast or off shore from Santa Barbara, CA we'll be right back were we started only now we'll have ruined some beautiful parts of the country.

Option 3) Lower dependence on oil overall by shifting to renewable energy sources. PRO: This is the best, if not only, long term solution. CON: This is the most expensive solution in the short and medium term. Many of the alternative energy technologies are only in their initial stages of development and require a lot of investment to make them profitable and practical.

Anyone else have any comments?

1 comment:

Dr. Strangelove said...

There is another alternative. There is a non-renewable energy source that provides, pound for pound, over 100,000,000 times as much energy as fossil fuels, and unlike most renewable energy sources, we already have learned to exploit this resource competitively on an industrial scale. Furthermore, the US has a unique technological advantage in this area of energy generation that could make the US a supplier to the rest of the world, or at the very least allow us to be self-reliant.

Unfortunately, because of hysteria that followed the accident at Three Mile Island and (much more real) fears that followed the disaster at Chernobyl, nuclear power in the US has been in a decline for the past couple of decades. This is not to say that nuclear power is safe or clean. There are risks from nuclear accidents and nuclear waste. But the problem of nuclear waste must be weighed against the problems of fossil fuel waste: nuclear waste can be sealed in containers and buried, while the deadly pollutants from fossil fuels are airborne and are produced in such quantity that they risk climatological change. And the risks from nuclear accidents (much exaggerated by the media, unfortunately) must also be weighed against the risks from fossil fuel accidents--and by any measure there have been far, far more fatalities and injuries due to fossil fuel production and use (think of oil spills, collapsing coal mines, fires, explosions...) than from nuclear power.

Unpopular as it may be in environmental circles, until fusion is available, fission may be our best answer to foreign oil dependence.