Why is energy independence a dangerous delusion?
Michael T. Klare is the Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies (a joint appointment at Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst), and Director of the Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies (PAWSS), a position he has held since 1985. Before assuming his present post, he served as Director of the Program on Militarism and Disarmament at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. (1977-84).
Professor Klare has written widely on U.S. defense policy, the arms trade, and world security affairs. He is the author of Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum (Metropolitan Books, 2004), along with many other books. He is also the defense correspondent of The Nation, a Contributing Editor of Current History, and has contrbuted to numerous publications.
Michael Klare serves on the board of directors of the Arms Control Association, and the advisory board of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch; he is also a member of the Committee on International Security Studies of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Question: Why is energy independence a dangerous delusion?
Michael Klare: Well in the sense that I think we certainly understand that we cannot continue to rely on petroleum as a major source of energy. Now, there are two dimensions to our addiction to petroleum, by the way let’s start by saying that petroleum is our largest single source of energy about 40% of our energy comes from petroleum. This is higher than almost any other major economic power, most of the countries rely on other sources of energy or a bigger spread or a greater spectrum of energy. We are very petroleum dependent and this is partly, because we were once a major petroleum producer, it was once abundant and cheap. So, it was natural to rely on oil, but that ended in 1970 when we became a net, well when our domestic energy production peaked and we started relying on imports. So, we have a problem that we were very dependent on petroleum. Now, there are two problems with our dependence on petroleum. One is that we have together from foreign countries and that ties our foreign policy very much to obtaining more and more oil from other countries, many of which are unfriendly or dangerous or hostile. And that has led to the militarization of our foreign energy policy. I spoken a little bit about that, on one hand, and there is a high cost involved in that. Also, there is very big economic cost in the sense that we are exporting more and more dollars to pay for imported oil and those dollars that we spend are the largest single factor in our balance of payments deficit and that is contributing to the weakening of US dollar with respect to other currencies, which is contributing to the economic slowdown we are seeing in this country. So, our depend on foreign oil is a problem. On the other side of the coin, or the other dimension of this, is that oil, like other fossils fuels, produces carbon dioxide and insofar as we continue to rely on petroleum, we are going to continue to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and we are going to have a problem reducing our green house emission. So, we have a double problem now, we want to cut back on carbon dioxide emissions and we want to cut back on our reliance on imported petroleum. The only way to do that is cut back on our use of petroleum period and at this stage in the game we really have no plan in place to do that, and that is why I say all these efforts for energy independence that rely on domestic sources of petroleum are dangerous delusion. They are leading us to think there is a petroleum solution, there is no petroleum solution, there is only non-petroleum solutions.
Recorded on: 3/14/08
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