Energy independence is a bit of a canard. Political types like to talk about it because it makes for a good talking point. It appeals to certain feelings of nationalism, not to mention fears of dependence on energy produced by less than savory regimes (i.e. those in the middle east).
What we should be striving for isn’t so much energy independence but a free energy market where our sources of energy depend on things like price competition.
That being said, the rise in domestic energy production has been remarkable, as is the impact it is having on where we get our energy.
The chart to the right from the EIA shows the trend.
The United States produced enough energy to satisfy 84 percent of its needs in 2013, a rapid climb from its historic low in 2005, according to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The nation produced 81.7 quadrillion British thermal units of energy last year and consumed 97.5 quadrillion, the highest ratio since 1987. The nation’s energy output rose 18 percent from 2005 to 2013, as a surge in oil and gas production offset declines in coal. Meanwhile, its total energy used fell 2.7 percent during that period.
The nation’s ability to meet its own energy needs hit an all-time low in 2005, when the amount of energy produced domestically met just 69 percent of demand. The last time the United States’ energy production exceeded its energy use was in the 1950s, according to the Energy Information Administration, an agency of the Energy Department.
It attributed the nation’s rising energy security largely to the increased production of oil and natural gas, which has been fueled by the domestic shale boom. The rise of new drilling and production technology, namely hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, has allowed companies to tap more reservoirs deeply buried in dense rock formations.
As positive as this is, some could use it as an argument against lifting restrictions on exporting crude oil and unrefined natural gas to global markets. Currently, unrefined oil/gas cannot be exported (with few exceptions) which is great for the domestic refining industry. They essentially have a captive market. Domestic oil and gas producers have no place to send their product other than domestic refiners, something that may actually be keeping fuel prices artificially high.
Domestic energy production is great. But I don’t think we need to get too caught up on “energy independence.” In our modern global economy, we’re never going to be completely energy independent. What’s important is that American energy producers have access to a free global market to sell their product.