Why is energy independence a dangerous delusion?

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

We are more reliant on petroleum than any industrialized country.

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less