Gone are the days when we asked of the Arab world, “How did our oil get under your sand?” Now we are relentless in our quest for energy independence, and recent forecasts indicate that we will achieve it within a few years. Who knew that, while the presidential candidates bashed each other over who would develop fossil fuels faster, we were already exporting more oil products than we imported? We are expected to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer in five years, and Russia as the top gas producer by 2015. Only China produces more coal than we do. A future of no more gas lines, no more US warships escorting Mideast tankers, no more energy blackmail has been America’s dream since the 1970s. We now really can turn our backs on the world. All of which puts Barack Obama in something of a bind.
The forecasts assume development of the natural gas locked in our shale deposits, increased oil drilling and, of course, coal. In other words, we must tear up our ground, drill in our water and remove the tops of our mountains to replace Middle Eastern oil.
Both parties made economic growth the mantra of their campaigns, and Obama will be expected to deliver – to consumers, to labor, to business. The costs of doing so went unmentioned during the campaign. No talk of climate change, of carbon emissions, of pollution.
But the long-term trends of such dependence are clear and serious. Environmentalists voted for the president in huge numbers, and he owes us a serious discussion about alternatives to conventional growth.