The US government has an historic opportunity to strengthen national security by reducing its reliance on foreign oil.
There are huge policies either already in place or currently making their way through congress aimed at accomplishing this goal. Washington has made sure that the majority of public attention falls on policies such as renewable energy technologies, more efficient fuel economy standards, investments in hybrid and electric vehicles, development of natural gas-fueled heavy duty vehicles, and production of advanced biofuels would also create jobs and reduce global warming pollution. But the policies that fail to get the same level of media attention – those that are equally as important to cutting dependence on foreign energy – are government policies on domestic oil production.
Mixed signals on oil policy
Obama has given mixed signals over his views on domestic oil production, particularly offshore drilling, with rigs off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico likely to be given the go ahead despite opposition from environmentalists. Furthermore, the Minerals Management Service, part of the federal Interior Department, have given Shell the green light to begin exploratory wells off the north coast of Alaska in an Arctic area that is home to large numbers of endangered bowhead whales and polar bears, as well as walruses, ice seals and other species.
Domestic Oil Production
Currently, domestic production and consumption is drastically out of kilter with only a handful of states actually pumping out a significant amount of fuel for national consumption.
But the threats related to this range from the here and now – with troops in Afghanistan and Iraq tied down by their reliance on gas-guzzling equipment – to years into the future when extreme temperatures and rising sea levels could lead to a widespread social breakdown.
Investments in volatile Middle East
The US government, for the time being, find themselves in a Catch 22 situation. With global warming growing alongside ever increasing energy demands, progressing with domestic oil production comes at high environmental cost, but remains essential. Before the US renewable energy sector is at a stage where it can stand alone in supporting the nation’s needs, America could find itself increasingly reliant upon exporting countries that have opposing interests as oil production in friendly nations becomes depleted or less viable.
Ultimately, the United States will become more invested in the volatile Middle East, more dependent on corrupt and unsavory regimes, and more involved with politically unstable countries.
It may even get to the point where Washington is forced to decide between maintaining an effective foreign policy or a consistent, reliable energy supply.
The Senate will one day have the opportunity to dramatically reduce US oil consumption by resorting fully to no- and low-carbon energy sources, but the fact remains that domestic demand remains extremely high. Domestic oil production can grown alongside renewable energy technology for as long as it is necessary. But for now, national security must take precedence over helping the environment.