Why is energy independence a dangerous delusion?

Robert Bryce is a Texas-based freelance journalist and the current managing editor of Energy Tribune.  His most recent book,Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence (2008) has been heralded as "visionary, even revolutionary" by The New York Times. In 2004, he published Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death of Enron, which told the story of how the energy's corporations unraveling.  His work has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers, including The New York TimesSlate, and The Atlantic Monthly. He resides in Austin, Texas.

  • Transcript


Question: Why is energy independence a dangerous delusion?

Robert Bryce: Well of thesis of my book is very straight forward, that is energy independence is not the doable, nor desirable.  The US is too big of an energy consumer with the single largest energy consumer in the world the idea that we can divorce ourselves from the world’s single biggest business which is the global energy sector five trillion $ a year in the business is lot of cruse on it is face. We need to get rid of this idea of energy independence and adjust our rhetoric and adjust our sides to the realization that we are interdependent, we have been energy inter-dependent for decades and quite statistics in 1913 the US was a net crude oil importer. We have been importing crude and from other countries and been a net crude oil importer from nearly a century in that century this sure elapsed since 1913 we only been a net crude oil exporter and handful of times in a handful of years we are net crude oil importer for much of World war II we imported crude oil from 41 countries we imported gasoline from 46 and jet fuel from 26. It is an interdependent of market in every thing from gasoline and jet fuel, Ipods and fresh flowers get used to it.

Question: Are there downsides to being dependent on Saudi Arabia and Iran?

Robert Bryce: Well, yes I mean that we are  that we have shipping a lot of our money off shore. There is no question at that for the economically is something that, is not the best thing for our economy and how do we deal with that well I think we will have to do it is takes stock of what advantages are they, the Saudis are not ot the biggest supplier of crude to the US for oil products connected as, we need to embrace the idea that we are in fact part of the global market  when it comes to energy what part of the global market when it comes to whole lot of mineral commodities what we have to do to stay competitive is realize we are not going to compete with the Saudis in on the price of oil. We are always going to be able to produce it cheaper what can we produce and produce well and therefore compete in the world market well I think it is information technology, it is farm products, it is aero planes it is a cow boy boots what ever the commodity is some electronics we have a lot of innovation there at we can do at a lot of manufacturing that we can do in the US. That we do better than any one else we have to focus on our strengths and quit worrying about the fact that we import certain mineral commodities or what ever. We get over it, it is a global economy that is not going to change.

Question: Is there an environmental argument for energy independence?

Robert Bryce: There is no environmental argument for energy independence and I mean that at very, very just that there is no environmental argument for energy independence if US would attempt energy independence it will require massive amounts of refining of coal in to liquid fuels there is an enormously dirty process and there is scarcely a dirtier process in terms of Co2 production then turning coal in to liquid fuel and the environmental impacts would involve huge amounts of Uranium mining in the US import to more than 80 % of Uranium we would have to create Uranium Huge Uranium mines, huge Uranium mills the environmental impact for the US to attempt energy independents would be enormous and would be a huge mistake. Ethanol has nothing to do with energy independence; ethanol has every thing to do with scamming the American tax payer. This is one of the longest running robberies of American tax payers in this country’s history. It is a hijacking of American energy policy by a small delegates, small delegation in congress from the farm states that is allowing them to use this idea of energy security and talking about energy independence in order to provide huge subsidies to ethanol distilleries and the corn farmers in the farm states that is all it is. It has nothing to do with valid energy policy it is all about subsidies and keeping the subsidy machine rolling.

Question: Where are the calls for energy independence coming from?

Robert Bryce: Well the calls for energy independence are not new. The US has been since 1974 Richard Nixon talked about energy independence in 1974 in the wake of the Arab oil embargo. He promised energy independence by 1980. Gerald Ford promised in 1975 that the US would be energy independent in 10 years. In the late 70s Jimmy Carter talked about the looming crisis of energy in that they are called that the moral equipment of war, this is not new rhetoric what is new is in the wake of September11 we had a very small group but in for small but influential group of people who are big supporters in the 2nd Iraq war also began talking about this idea of energy independence and by  successfully conflating the issues of oil and terrorism they have created this artificial arguments that says oh, if we were only energy level independent then the US would be more secure of we would not have been in the Persian gulf, that you would be better for the environment etc etc and so it is really this small group of some of the money conservatives, James Woolsey, the former director of CIA, Frank Gaffney who is the director of the centre for security policy in Washington and I think most prominently probably Thomas Freedman,  the columnist for the New York Times and Freedman has repeatedly saying that we need to be energy independent and that US infact needs to built that he has urged evolved of energy independence around this self well how that is squash with Freedman’s other thesis the world is flat, makes no sense at all to me but never the less, Freedman has been leading this charge claiming that if only we bought less a oil are we were able to crush the price of oil that the Arabian Islamic world would reform and that we do all these saying incumbyonts I guess but the fact is that there is no real there is no truth of that argument and this but I think that the successful conflation of oil and terrorism has been the key arguments that they have put forward and it has been adopted by the left and the right republicans and democrats and there is become a monster now. Look we had terrorism and it seems before we started using oil, we will have terrorism long after the last drop of oil is consumed. Terrorism does not depend on oil but terrorism does not depend on the petro states which is the argument that is continually put forward by Frank Gaffney and James Woolsey and Thomas Freedman that if only we put the petro sticks out of business there would be no terrorism look there was no Petro $ involved in the September 11th attack, the attack cost less than $5000 according to the 9/11 commission. There were no petro $ involved in the Madrid train bombings or the London bus Bombings. Timothy Mcway that bombed the Oklahoma city in the more building in Okalahoma city had no connection with petro $. The Irish Republican Army use terrorism for decades, there was no connection with petro $. So I do that terrorism depends on oil is foolishness. Terrorism is a very low tech and low cost operation. It is funded largely by drugs.      by organized crime, by the weapons trade, by human trafficking, any number of things, this idea this conflation of oil and terrorism is a convenient one, but it is a false connection.

Date Recorded: 03/20/2008