Energy Crisis or Opportunity
Energy prices have stolen the spotlight and upended domestic and foreign politics. President Biden has decided to shift The US from Russian oil. This decision means we are looking to Venezuela, Iran, and Saudi Arabia to pick up the slack. Supplementing one foreign source for another may leave you wondering a few things. Why are we not able to use our energy resources? And can we increase our capacity while decreasing our carbon footprint?
First, the oil reserves we have are accessible with a process known as fracking. Fracking drills into the earth then shoots water into the ground to extract oil. The oil produced from fracking is sweet oil, which is important because our current infrastructure invested heavily in processing sour crude oil. There is our first problem while we can extract sweet crude oil, we do not have the capacity to refine enough to meet our demand. That forces us to import oil as many other sources have the sour oil we can refine. So any sound energy policy must address this issue; we can and should invest or subsidize their retooling. Fracking has helped us do two things that environmentalists would be smart to seize on 1) reduce carbon emissions and 2) decrease costs. All climate policy needs to be mindful that costs are the biggest impediment to our goals; if we can’t answer costs, we can’t get in the door. Fracking helps us do both and is our best bridge fuel to sustainability.
Long-term climate policy requires being mindful of costs. We have addressed imports as the short-term answer and fracking as the bridge, but now we need to address long-term sustainability. Fracking produces less carbon but is not where we want to be long term but can help us get there. I wish solar and wind alone could reach our energy demand, but we lack the capacity and infrastructure. Renewables are getting cheaper and more efficient but not at the speed and capacity we need. More investments are a sound idea, but we need more diversification too. We can get to zero emissions, but that requires an honest look at production options. First nuclear, France currently derives 70% of its energy from Nuclear, but we do not need to go that far, just enough to supplement our energy demands. We can also implement and incentivize carbon capture along with other offsets for nonrenewable sources. Solar and wind can not produce 24/7 while nuclear and clean coal can that makes them vital.
I hate to use this phrase, but no crisis should go to waste. If we have the opportunity to transition to a cleaner and more economical energy policy we should take it even if that means temporarily importing oil in the near term, utilizing bridge fuels, and building towards renewables. Crafting environmental policy requires compromises, and this may be our last best chance.