Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4th & Energy Independence: A Personal Reflection

 As a 12 year old boy, I got off a plane in 1970 at JFK airport in New York from Dublin, Ireland and began a new life in America, a national home that has given me and hundreds of millions of others independence and opportunity.  Our national independence is the rock, the foundation on which the greatest experiment in human liberty continues each day, but it is easily taken for granted.

On this July 4th, America's independence has never been more threatened since perhaps the War of 1812.  The threat this time is not British troops burning the White House. It is more insidious, serious and growing. 

Our addiction to foreign oil imperils America's national security, economy, environment, health,.independence.

Just as prior generations of Americans met threats to our independence, we can protect America and kick the oil habit by moving aggressively to biodiesel, natural gas vehicles, electric cars.  These fuels can replace foreign oil and make America Energy Independent.

We must set as national and state goals cutting our oil consumption by 70% by 2020.  To do this we must raise fuel efficiency standards for new gasoline vehicles and accelerate the deployment of the available cleaner and cheaper alternatives to oil.  Pennsylvania is uniquely positioned to show the way because of its large electricity, natural gas, biodiesel, and manufacturing capacities.

Ninety per cent of our transportation fuel is oil and we import close to 70% of it.  Hence the goal of cutting by 70% by 2020 our oil consumption.

Today, America does not move without oil and foreign oil.  We are not independent of the Persian Gulf, Russia, the world oil markets. 

We have fought two wars in IRAQ since 1991 and now are supporting the NATO intervention in Libya. All of these interventions were forced or colored by concerns about world oil supplies and prices.

And when world tensions rise or Chinese and Indian demand strains oil supplies, oil reaches $120 per barrel or more.  Then our economy buckles. 

The American economy cannot afford $120 per barrel oil or $4 gasoline, because at that price median income families spend 10% of their total income to just fuel the family vehicles.

And when we are buying oil and sending dollars overseas for it, we are not buying shoes, books, restaurant meals and so on. Consumer demand for other products falls and jobs in our communities vanish.

To round it off, oil is much dirtier for our environment and more damaging to our health than emerging transportation alternative fuels like biodiesel, natural gas, and electricity.

In sum, oil to which we are addicted is much more expensive and dirtier and more foreign than the alternatives.  Like any addiction, our oil addiction is not rational and dangerous.

While America's Independence is at risk from foreign oil, now we have the means--biodiesel, natural gas, electricity, energy efficiency--to end that threat. 

Let's this July 4th Declare Energy Independence and Protect America's Independence.  That would make for the Happiest July 4th and many more in the future.


  1. Respectfully, Secretary Hanger, I think energy independence is a pipedream:

  2. Thank you for the comment. It deserves a posting to continue the discussion.