Editor's Log: Energy Sanity

November 2009 Vol. 64 No. 11

During the 2008 national elections, there was much rhetoric about leadership. Unfortunately, in regards to the energy industry, that leadership has failed miserably with no indication of sanity any time soon.

The United States has not established a coherent, realistic and practical energy policy for decades. President Carter established the energy administration back in the 70s. That department now has a bloated budget and bulging staff and has had only negligible effect and virtual no results for its original mandate: reduce America’s dependence on foreign energy. About the only policy ever receiving support was “cheap energy at any price.”

Of course, previous administrations, both Republican and Democratic, did not fare much better. President Bush (W) tried to get some domestic “hands-off” areas released for possible exploration but any progress he made was immediately rebuffed by the Obama administration.

Our current energy policy, or lack thereof, is a mess. On the one hand, you’ve got Obama preaching alternative energy sources and reducing our dependence on foreign oil, almost at any cost. That should mean increasing domestic production and pipeline infrastructure, but of course, it doesn’t. Obama is also encouraging our Middle East allies to produce more oil and making nice-nice with Venezuela’s Chavez in order to keep a healthy supply of oil flowing to the U.S.

Congress’ actions have been to virtually attack the domestic energy industry, trying to reduce exploration and growth incentives (even though most other industries receive similar considerations) while increasing tax and regulatory burdens. The “carbon tax” threatens to submarine economic recovery.

Our dependence on foreign oil will not end any time soon--especially as the world’s economy begins to revive and demand subsequently increases. The use of oil is embedded in our society--think plastics, pharmaceuticals, solvents, fertilizers and pesticides. Natural gas is also a carbon fuel but its efficiency and low carbon footprint makes it the perfect “alternative” fuel as we attempt to transition from oil-based fuel; a process that, even with a firm plan, will probably take a minimum of 50 years. However, to date, gas’ potential as an alternative fuel source has only received cursory attention from our Congressional leadership.