Energy Debate Fact Check #2 - Is Energy Independence Good For the Nation?

Last weeks Debate Fact Check #1 highlighted the realities of offshore drilling often glossed over in political discussions. Tonight, with less than 3 weeks remaining before the national election,we will view the final head-to-head presidential debate. Beyond the immediate concern of roiling financial markets, candidates are at least somewhat aware of the complex challenges that lie ahead in the coming energy transition. One popular (and pleasing to the ear) phrase that is frequently used is 'Energy independence'. In my opinion, true energy independence, if possible, will require significantly more focus on reducing energy demand than on increasing energy supply, something we are hearing little about (perhaps because its...err...less likely to win votes?) A slightly different take on this was posted here 2 years ago summarizing Council of Foreign Relations report on the infeasibility of energy independence.)

Below the fold is the second in a series of brief fact-checking exercises regarding the major energy issues in the campaign by Professor Cutler Cleveland.

Senators McCain and Obama—and every President since Richard Nixon—have argued that energy independence should be at the core of national energy policy. Energy independence typically is defined as zero reliance on energy imports. The underlying assumption is that relying on “unfriendly” Middle East nations for energy is bad for our economic and national security.

The argument for energy independence is flawed for economic, strategic, and environmental reasons:

1. “Unfriendly” nations are not our primary source of oil. Only 44% of U.S. oil imports are from members of OPEC, the international oil cartel that is dominated by Middle East producers. Canada and Mexico are the two largest single sources for imported oil in 2007. (Editors note: through 6/08, Mexico has dropped to #3, though this changes seasonally and may revert in 2nd half of year)

2. The U.S. oil resource base is depleted to the extent that it could not yield the roughly 3.7 billion barrels of oil the U.S imported in 2007 (not to mention the additional refined products imported). Domestic oil is far more expensive to produce than oil in most other regions, especially OPEC nations. Increased reliance on domestic oil will put upward pressure on oil prices.

3. Increased U.S. production would have little impact on the level or volatility of oil prices. The price of oil is determined in a global market by a complex array of forces including speculation, weather, geopolitics, decisions by OPEC, and most importantly, by market fundamentals--short and long run supply and demand forces. At the margin, producing decisions made in the U.S. have little influence on this process.

4. Global price determination also means that energy independence won't protect our economy from supply disruptions abroad. A refinery strike in Venezuela, civil war in the Niger Delta, and other similar events could quickly reduce oil production. Oil instantly becomes more expensive everywhere -- the UK, Japan, China, and the U.S. all pay pretty much the same price.

5. The sensitivity of our economic well being to changes in the price of oil stems from the overriding importance of oil to human existence, not to our dependence on imported oil per se. A nation can reduce its economic vulnerability to oil price increases only by using less oil in total, regardless of whether it is produced domestically or imported.

6. Oil imports are a hedge against domestic supply disruptions. For example, the hurricanes of 2005 that damaged New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities also damaged refineries, causing an immediate gasoline shortage in a number of southern U.S. cities. But increased imports of gasoline from Venezuela and other nations offset the loss of domestic supply, and thereby helped mitigate the increase the price of gasoline.

7. The costs of substitutes for oil (ethanol, electric cars, fuel cell propulsion) are more expensive than oil, and will be for at least the next decade. Forcing a transition to these fuels now will raise costs and prices. Many substitutes also carry a significant environmental cost.

8. The U.S. cannot wall itself off from the international energy market. We import oil from Venezuela, electricity and natural gas from Canada, and wind turbines from Denmark. We export coal to the Netherlands, motor gasoline to Mexico and photovoltaic modules to China. The nation benefits from energy trade. For example, weak European natural gas demand in 2007 released additional LNG to the global market, and thus helped keep U.S. natural gas prices at a record low compared to fuel oil. Cutting ourselves out of the increasingly interconnected global trade in energy would raise domestic energy prices. Zero net imports is also impossible to achieve in the foreseeable future.

9. Energy independence would not significantly reduce the risk of terrorism. Terrorism thrived when oil was $10 per barrel—it doesn’t need $100 a barrel oil. Terrorism can be done on the cheap: the 9/11 Commission found that those attacks were accomplished with as little as $500,000.

10. Energy independence would accelerate climate change. A push towards independence would inevitably lead to increased reliance on our substantial domestic resources of coal, the most carbon-intensive energy source.

The notion of energy independence is comforting and makes for a great sound bite, but it is not a sound basis for a national energy policy

Professor Cutler Cleveland
Boston University

Some of Dr. Clevelands previous work posted on theoildrum:

Presidential Energy Debate Fact Check #1 - Is Offshore Drilling the Answer? Cutler Cleveland
On Energy Transitions Past and Future - Cutler Cleveland
Ten Fundamental Principles of Net Energy Analysis - Cutler Cleveland
Energy Return from Wind - Cutler Cleveland and Ida Kubiszewski


I don't find the term "Energy Independence" pleasing at all. It hits me more like finger nails on a blackboard. Above all else, I think most would agree it’s a completely meaningless phrase in that it can mean anything one chooses. Independence from imported oil? Independence from the oil companies? Independent from rising prices? Independent from negative effects of decreasing oil resources? And in what time frame does this independence develop: next month …next year …10 years …50 years? And, equally important, at what price: decreased personal freedoms …decreased domestic growth ...increased unemployment …war?

Let’s assume it means independence from imported oil in the next 10 years. This seems to be a common point of view from many including the politicians. For some reason I find such comments from Sen. McCain even more irritating then from Sen. Obama. Perhaps just because he’s been kicking around the planet longer and should know better. The only approach I’ve seen at TOD or elsewhere that might achieve such independence is a drastic and mandatory increase in consumption taxes on motor fuels. But even under such a plan we likely would still be importing oil though at lower prices. But we would still need those imports and thus would still be dependent.

As far as alternatives fuel sources and other conservation efforts I would be very pleased to see them offered here. But only if they can be developed in the 10 year time frame offered and can be shown they would be accepted today as financially viable with monies readily available to begin immediate implementation. There are certainly many technical approaches out there which could lead to some measure of “independence”. But if they won’t be supported by the public or are not fundable under the current financial system then they are just good ideas with no future.

Would that all voters be aware of the wider issues as you are...

I think the implied definition of energy independence used by Prof Cleveland is petroleum importation independence. Since we are now on the downward slope of peak oil, we are headed toward petroleum independence without a doubt. We may argue about the speed with which petroleum independence will arrive, but it surely will, some day. So, why argue about whether or not independence from _imported_ petroleum is possible. Of course it is possible. It will happen, and the question is - how much pain and suffering it will cause.

But to mitigate the bad effects of decline in supply of petroleum, we need to do something now. Waiting until there is agreement of everyone that petroleum will not fuel the future, will not leave enough time to implement a solution. Babbling about energy independence might be a useful political cover for doing some useful technical work.

well we are doing what we can to educate and access peoples long range thinking. our megaphone, in the scheme of things is quite small.

And, unfortunately, it is pretty clear that the general population does not react until we have a crisis.

Glad to see an effort to talk and think through "energy independence." Professor Cleveland makes excellent points.

At the same time, one should not dismiss out of hand popular anxiety about the mismanagement of our country's strategic situation. This anxiety gets attached to oil which is easier to understand than the incompetence and corruption which seems rife in our governing elite.

Here's a thought experiment. Suppose that the world's remaining reserves of oil were concentrated in Australia, New Zealand and the UK instead of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. Would "energy independence" have quite the same traction with the electorate?

Between them Australia and Canada have maybe 70% of the easily mined uranium so nobody seems to worry. However Australia has just refused uranium shipments to India and Russia so it can't be taken for granted.

Strategic Petroleum Reserve covers us for 33 days. A strategic uranium reserve could cover us for years. Even without one, reactors don't shut down when uranium is cut off until the next scheduled refueling time for a particular reactor. Thus, power generating capability will taper off at a linear rate over a year+ even if companies don't already have the next set of fuel rods on hand.

Mexico's production is falling off a cliff. I would be shocked if it ever gets up very much. In July, the biggest source of imports was still Canada, at 2,390,000 barrels per day. Saudi Arabia was second at 1,675,000. Venezuela was third at 1,340,000, and Mexico was number four with 1,290,000. It is possible some months Mexico will trade places with Venezuela, but is hard to see it going up much higher than number three.

It could if KSA and Canada production falls....;-)

In all seriousness though, due to financial deleveraging and coming depression, Mexico becoming a net oil importer is probably pushed back a couple years, though I expect their price elasticity to oil is lower than richer countries (higher amount of demand is needed). But once this country realizes the precipitous nature of Cantarell ++ (and it has been written about in WSJ and other mainstream places), we are going to have some real problems..

Once production starts declining, the three key factors that affect the rate of change in net exports are: (1) Consumption as a percentage of production at final peak; (2) The rate of change in production; (3) The rate of change in consumption.

Of the three, #1, consumption as a percentage of production, is the most important variable. And Mexico--like Export Land (final peak to zero net exports in 9 years), Indonesia (final peak to zero net oil exports in 8 years) and the UK (final peak to zero net oil exports in 7 years)--is in the "Red Zone," i.e., consuming about half of production at final peak (2004 for Mexico).

Mexico's net oil exports in 2004 were 1.9 mbpd (EIA, Total Liquids). I estimate that they will be down to around 1.0 to 1.1 mbpd in 2008. At this rate of decline, Mexico would be approaching zero net oil exports in around four to five years. However, the Cantarell decline is pretty steep, and subject to what consumption does, it's possible that they could get close to zero net oil exports in as little as two to three years.

And Venezuela's net oil exports have been dropping at an average rate of 100,000 bpd per year for 10 years. While hope springs eternal, at this rate of decline they will be approaching zero net oil exports in 20 years.

gail -- I doubt this will significantly change the future flow rates. I'm unclear exactly what they mean by "oil well repairs". Perhaps it's just a bad translation of the term "workovers".

MEXICO CITY (Dow Jones Newswires), October 14, 2008

State-run Petroleos Mexicanos has launched a tender to build four offshore oil platforms for the giant Cantarell field where the company hopes to stabilize production levels that have dropped by around a third over the past year.

In a statement Monday, Pemex said the four platforms will be used in the Akal section of the field for oil well repairs. Interested companies must deliver project proposals to Pemex between Nov. 5 and Nov. 14, depending on the platform.

Cantarell peaked in 2004 at nearly 2.2 million barrels a day, over 60% of Mexico's total production at the time. Now it barely produces a third of total production at under a million barrels a day.

Mexico is getting hammered. Slowdown in USA means that migrant remittances are falling. Oil production and exports are crashing. And the drug war, fueled by cash and illegal weapons from the USA, has brought violence from the hinterland into the capital.

Eight were killed and over 100 injured in a bomb blast during celebrations on the eve on Independence Day (Sept 15) in a plaza in Morelia.

On October 2, Mexico's conservative president proposed decriminalizing possession for personal use.

The destabilization of Mexico is one of the biggest security threats we face, in my humble opinion. (Which doesn't mean we need to invade, amigos. Rethinking prohibition, as these law enforcement officers are doing, would be a better place to start.)

And apropos the post, would we be safer if we imported no oil from Mexico through "energy independence?"

And apropos the post, would we be safer if we imported no oil from Mexico through "energy independence?"

I believe we will be safer if we do not invade Mexico in order to get their oil.

Yes, invasion would be a very bad idea.

That being said, the Mexican War worked out well for the USA. If the outcome had been different, then the oil fields of Texas and California would be part of Mexico.

Talk about alternate history.

... and if Russia hadn't flogged off Alaska - no Prudhoe and no Governor Palin

Seems the title "Is Energy Independence Even Possible for the Nation" is more to the point. Is it possible for any nation?

Energy Independence, is not only quite possible, it is probable, and most likely to occur within 10 years, regardless of which candidate is elected or which policies are implemented.

Important Caveat: We just will not be continuing with business as usual as everyone assumes.



If we start to think long term, and I mean decades ahead, I see quasi energy "independence" as a given. Not in the political way the phrase is used, but in a biophysical sense that is inherently local or geographically regional.

Without cheap transportation fuels, wouldn't any economy need to shrink the geographic area in which it extracts and combines materials to make and circulate products and wastes? And wouldn't this area likely be no larger than the size of a major continent such as North America?

Or should I have faith in a global supergrid, where someday I can expect some portion of my electricity here in California to come from arrays dispersed across the Sahara?

I think you are right in the direction we are moving in -- inherently local economies. It may not take all that long, if the financial breakdown is severe.

A global supergrid, or even a vastly enhanced US grid, is probably a pipe dream. It will become harder and harder just to maintain what we have, as oil supplies decline and credit becomes more scarce.

Intercontinental trade depends on water shipping, and as best I can tell that won't go away with peak oil.

Here's a discussion and analysis. See

What do you think? Does it make sense?

"10. Energy independence would accelerate climate change. A push towards independence would inevitably lead to increased reliance on our substantial domestic resources of coal, the most carbon-intensive energy source."

The way Obama talks about "clean coal" and McCain hypes "drill here, drill now" I can understand this point. But I would suggest that Cleveland reframe the issue.

10. Energy independence can not be achieved by further reliance on domestic fossil fuels because these are non-renewable resources and accelerate climate change. Therefore, any push towards independence needs to rely first on conservation, second on efficiency, and third on renewable energy technologies that can operate a less energy demanding economy.

We just dont get it. We cant have it cheap any more. And low oilprices just make it harder to develop whats left.

Even worse, low oil prices make it harder to convince public and politicians that there is an urgent problem and also make it difficult to scale renewable infrastructure.

I think energy independence misses the point and is a distraction from the real issue. Which is that there's going to be less and less of it globally, so we too are going to have less and less of it. How do we adjust to that? That's the issue.

There's an easy part and a hard part. The easy part, rather I should say what could be the easy part given the political will (which there won't be), would be the first steps in reducing our consumption of energy. Easy because we waste incredible amounts of energy. The later reductions will be much harder, requiring a complete rework of our way of life.

Neither those who preach independence nor those who acknowledge the impossibility doing so are facing up to this issue. Ultimately what we need to be and will be, one way or another, is independent of underground hydrocarbons.

In the meantime, on the downslope, where we acquire our energy is a pragmatic issue. "Terrorism", BTW, is people blowing up pipelines to keep their own oil and gas. Our terrorism is blowing up the people who might even think about blowing up pipelines.

Edit: Obviously almost everyone will need to be energy independent in the long run.

Perhaps "energy policy independence" is a better statement. This means decisions are taken with less influence frome existing produceers and lobbies (public or private)and consideration given to longer term issues ie. the continuation of energy policy independence and security of energy - not oil - supply.

This might help emphasize conservation, which is surely more patriotic than paying taxes, and diverstity or "energy insurance" which means protecting local energy supplies from short term bloodbaths in the oil market. These price canyons have the effect of permanently shutting in production, shelving drilling and new projects and wrecking alternative energy prospect.

But they are very attractive to consumers in the short term! This is actually a mark-to-market related issue The spot market is not very efficient in pricing long term energy supplies. Anyone who has ever discounted an NPV of an oil field (or any long term asset knows just how little the future is worth.

Yes, this means present day subsidies and price protection - higher prices for energy - to preserve future supplies and policy options. It's a specific purpose, but it is a subsidy. I guess the question is: How much is future energy policy independence worth to us right now and how much are we willing to pay?

Just a note to explain typos: It's hard enough proof-reading your own stuff as eyesight fades with age. With the right glasses, "nearsighted" reading is easy. Wearing "farsighted" glasses completely wreck output reliability. Mistakes are made.

Is this not analogous to the short and long term optics of oil and energy policy? Short term clarity and ease of execution have very little to do with sound long term pathways. This means sharp and dangerous spikes and canyons, with few warning signs, doesn't it?

Nate, the CFR is a powerful community of elites including both Obama and Mccain. Obama CFR Video

That shows the connection with the CFR.

True Engery Independence is near to impossible, as we will always rely on other nations for provisions. I am first to say that we will become extremely dependent on Canada, and potentially joining union to create one North American Nation to compete with the EU. Think about it.

" The herd instinct is hard at work in the equity markets, and I believe those markets will continue to deteriorate as pensioners and other investors become increasingly anxious, and continue to make cash calls on their investment funds. I think what we are witnessing each day is an escalating ‘Crisis of Confidence’. The risk to the capital markets is that this becomes a ‘self-fulfilling prophesy’, just as the U.S. Housing Crisis was a predictable ‘self-fulfilling prophesy’ that arose out of the U.S. Interest Rate policies geared to ensure continued U.S. consumer spending, and hence U.S. GDP growth."


"... Canada, and potentially joining union to create one North American Nation to compete with the EU."

As a Canadian, i'd have a few issues to resolve first.

a) we're much more social-democracy oriented. would the union still provide single-payer universal private medical care? Inter-regional transfer payment systems to support a certain level of equality for people in less-advantaged regions? Rational narcotic management / control programs? Rational handgun control laws?

b) Canadians much prefer our parliamentary system to the US elected monarchy. I would personally go along IF the new system of government provided TRUE democracy, where the state implements electronic communications systems to provide that EVERY citizen gets to vote on EVERY ITEM of legislation before passage, or to assign their vote on a per-ministry basis to any other individual they choose to make decisions for them in areas where they feel they lack interest and expertise. eg. I might assign all my votes on economic issues to Gail-the-Actuary, and all my votes on energy issues to Nate, but choose to cast my own votes on issues of educaion and defense. Up for that? That's likely the only way short of an invasion. (example of rationality - Canada just held a Federal election for parliament, eg. new Prime Minister and all of elected parliament (Senate in Canada has absolutely zero power because it is not elected). The election was called on Sept. 2 and happened yesterday, Oct. 14. A 6 week period, which provided ample time for all parties to discuss their platfroms and for the five main political party leaders to hold 2 nationally televised debates, one in French the other in English. Works well, and doesn't distract everything of real importance for 2 years out of four like the US) BTW, in this system there are no congressmen, senators. Only a civil service under work contracts where all contracts paying above a certain amount can only be renewed once every four years by a vote of all the people. Head-of-State, eg. greets and entertains visiting dignitaries, represents on trips abroad, would be similar to Canada's Governer General, a purely ceremonial position with zero authority. In times of war emergency, Chief of Defense staff would take executive power for 90 day periods, renewable only by majority vote of citizens. If not renewed, then next in line would take over for next 90 days. All issues of budget and taxation must be passed by majority votes of all the voters or their asignees.

c) many others.

Other BIG problem is the close margins of US elections. Canada is quite a lot "leftier" than the US. Introducing Canadians as full partners would tip US electoral scales in favour of the Democrats in almost any scenario. Now, there's always unifying without giving the new partners any voting rights. That would be something the Right could buy into. A better word is conquest.

Another scenario has Canada under the heel of a quasi-democratic US puppet government led by neo-conservatives that use an old-fashioned, effectively unicameral, Parliamentary system and its many weaknesses - imagine if Carl Rove could pick the best time to call an election!- as well as a deeply divided center and left to maintain and expand their power based on a relatively small electoral plurality.

Hmmmm... Isn't that what just happened in our General Election on Tuesday? Again. All PM Harper needs to do is keep trying until he gets a majority, and adopt the same spin tactics proven by the US Far Right (big big money, Swift Boating, fear, gay bashing, outright lies and racism, character assassination, even wars of choice) and put getting elected over the best interest of the nation. The US will not get itself a very compliant partner.

If we don't watch ourselves, Canada will replace Paraguay as the principal refuge for neo-nutters, glib cornucopians, global warming deniers, creationists, and rapture afficionados fleeing the carnage they have inflicted on their home country. Remember voodoo economics? This could be called voodoo politics...

Suppose that energy is bound into our physical materials and services so as to make them useful. Further suppose that we must trade and exchange goods and services to make society run.

Wouldn't "energy independence" then hamper certain kinds of trade? Doesn't it also run counter to globalization? Isn't it also less efficient and less profitable?

It seems that TPTB or whoever's pulling the strings these days are venturing into systemic cannibalism in order to keep the machine running.

The snake is eating its own tail.

"Wouldn't "energy independence" then hamper certain kinds of trade? Doesn't it also run counter to globalization?"

Uh, yeah, That's the main benefit. Name for me one NET benefit of globalization for a "middle-class" industrial worker in the US of globalization. Essentially, globalization simply places her/him in direct competition in the labour market with workers in foreign countries who are forced to work in environments with little or no labour standards, workplace safety laws, protections for the environment, wage safety nets, legal recourse for employer negligence, etc. etc. etc.

Globalization is simply a way to reduce American workers to the lowest international common denominator. It amounts to saying "workers can only have the above named protections IF they can ALSO produce products cheaper than workers in China or India who lack them." It's a STUPID premis.

Interjurisdictional free trade can ONLY be allowed between regions with an agreed common set of workplace and environmental standards. Trade with regions without these must have equivalent penalties imposed to enable fair local competition. These penalties will then FORCE governments in those non-complying countries to IMPLEMENT THOSE PROTECTIONS FOR THEIR OWN PEOPLE in order to have the penaties removed, which is the quickest way to improve conditions for people in those countries as well.

My point was that the people pulling the strings are now trying to operate the system in reverse. This is in contradiction to all the industrial and financial infrastructures engineered to seek for greater efficiency, leading to more growth and more profit.

Energy independence is more resilient, less efficient, and less profitable.

Merely discussing "energy independence" runs counter to many of the goals for power, growth, control, and profit which are so prevalent in our way of life.

It's like a heroin addict being all smacked up, but the heroin is running out, so they try to make the remaining heroin last longer with some cocaine and alcohol.

This is yet another sign of the collapse of our complex system, that's all I was pointing out.

The problem is that the sound bite cliche "energy independence" polls well among voters, and fits the Kubler-Ross denial and blaming stages of grieving - which I think is where many voters are right now. It offers foreign outsiders as the reason for our problems - with a bonus that they are the also the "same" people who attacked us! The exporters are either Islamic terrorists, or uppity leftist commies who are steadily demagogued as the evil enemy. Now, THAT is a combo package sure to be endorsed and used by any politician.

Sadly, the super majority of voters are not educated, capable of critical thought, or reasoned debate on even simple issues. Energy is very complicated, and while not as abstract and opaque as the current financial crap game, it is still well beyond the capacity of most people to understand. This encourages the cynical lip service given energy independence by polticians and media propagandists, some of whom are actually very aware of how bad the situation really is.

The word "independence" also appeals to vaguely held notions of freedom, patriotism, and the pioneer spirit that made this country great.

Look, USA citizen and Canadians need to recognize that 95% of what has made our countries "great", has been free access to a huge wealth of natural resources in far greater proportion per unit population than in any other place in the world. Agreed, we might even then have found a way to mess things up, but the odds were very heavily in our favour. Add that to the fact most of the people who originally came were already decently well educated in relative terms, and that largly because of the resource rich economies we have been able to attract the best and brightest new immigrants from most other nations and you have a "no way to fail" secnario. VERY LITTLE of the credit can be placed on any particular choice of economic or political systems. If you want to see a political and economic system which IS doing tremendous things for its people, starting from a very poorly educated populace in 1949, with almost no natural resources and with every other powerful nation in the world doing all it could to hinder their development, then it is China which wins that argument, hands down.

well said Len, with the one caveat being they have little or no environment left - and that is largely a product of population density. Sometimes I wonder if in 2050 - 2100, the city/county where I reside will be populated by a Han race. I know - unbelievable...but maybe not.

Len - I was referring to the mythological narratives that people respond to (such as the "pioneering spirit," "our problems are caused by outsiders"), not the undisputed fact that we rose to power because of abundant North American natural resources. My experience with presenting and explaining peak oil to folks is that these mythological narratives and ignorant biases are not often penetrated by facts. If an ignorant person thinks our problems are caused by foreigners, very little will change that perception. Once again, because most people are not capable of critical thought. All politicians, both on the left and right, recognize the level of ignorance, and will use it to their advantage. Cheers!

If free access to high natural resources per unit population made countries great why does the Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Russia, Iran, have such low standards of living? Why does Japan have one of the highest?
The US has been a major innovator for the past 150 years. Why was Drake the first to drill for oil, Ford to introduce modern assembly manufacturing, Edison to commercialize so many technologies, IBM, Xerox, Microsoft, GM the EV1( oops). All of these things should have happened in Europe, but they were too busy fighting with each other, they were never going to happen in Africa and would not have happened in N America if the European invasions had been repelled or absorbed.
While China has made great progress, it still has a third world standard of living, 500 Million peasants growing food for themselves and the other 500 million low paid factory workers.
If the USA went on a diet, introduced a $4 gasoline tax and doubled CAFE vehicle fuel economy standards they could regain a lot of the lost ground and feel better for it.

There are "reasons" for policies and there are reasons. Energy independence comes from the realization that oil is going to get very scarce and if we aren't overly reliant on it, the US economy is going to have a leg up on the rest of the world economy. What politicians mean is we'd like to give more Americans energy jobs. No surprise they both like nuclear power which has probably the most impact on local economies except maybe hydro made lakes.

To me energy independence is all about diversification. Its about choice. I want to be able to not give a .... when war breaks out in Nigeria, Georgia, or the middle east. People are annoyed that we have essentially 1.15 choices to fuel our cars. I'd like to be able to choose from electric, nat gas, gasoline, and some form of bio-diesel (NOT CORN). The market economy isn't known for being very transformational sometimes so its a tough area.

Point 9 is a good point. You think terrorism is bad now, if oil ever ran out or became worthless in the middle east, things would get infinitely worse. Good economies prevent terrorism.

The trick to energy independence is having a flexible system that is able to achieve the lower cost of energy at any time and I seriously doubt the economy can handle moving to that. So yeah, energy independence as in getting rid of imports is not smart.

I want to be able to not give a .... when war breaks out in Nigeria, Georgia, or the middle east.

You mean, like Rwanda?  Or Libera, or Zimbabwe, or Sri Lanka?

You think terrorism is bad now, if oil ever ran out or became worthless in the middle east, things would get infinitely worse. Good economies prevent terrorism.

You're quite wrong about that.  Poverty has NOTHING to do with today's terrorism.  One of the most dangerous terror plots in the last couple of years was hatched and carried out by doctors (affluent people) in Britain, and Haitian terrorists are unknown.

Today's terrorism is caused by a huge amount of unearned wealth falling into the hands of a bunch of people with a religious imperative to subjugate the world by force, and allowing those people to live where this imperative can be carried out.  Take the wealth away and send them back where they came from, and the problem will disappear.

Good discussion. While I agree with much of what Dr. Cutler says, I'd like to provide a counterpoint.

1. "Complete" energy independence is a straw dog, both for advocates and skeptics. It will always be a matter of degree. Nonetheless there is a world of difference between being completely dependent on energy from foreign sources, and being somewhat dependent.

2. Dr. Cutler's post assumes that the political relationships we have now are the ones that we will have in the future. This is an unreasonable assumption. A look at 20th century history shows how quickly relationships can change. Friends can become less friendly or hostile (Iran, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia). Enemies can become partners (China, Russia). Energy sales can be tools of political policy, and if one is overly dependent, one is politically vulnerable.

It's instructive to see how critical oil and coal were in World War II. The cutting off of oil supplies to Japan by the U.S. was the ostensible reason for Japan's entry into the war. Much of the activity on the Eastern Front represented Germany's need to get access to oil fields.

3. Ensuring a constant supply of oil requires that the U.S. maintain a large military presence in unstable parts of the world. It probably means a continuing series of actions like the Iraq War. It's also the cause of much anti-American feeling, a powerful recruiting tool for Al-Quaeda.

4. Right now, there is political support for energy independence, particularly from those on the nationalistic/military side of the political spectrum (for example, former CIA directors). It is a powerful motivation, articulated by people like Thomas Friedman and Gal Luft (Institute for the Analysis of Global Security - IAGS). Energy security provides a starting point for talking about energy, and perhaps for forming alliances.

Even though energy security may be seen as a conservative preoccupation, it would critical no matter who is in office - Obama, leftists or libertarians.

5. In addition to the political aspect of energy dependence, there are the economic consequences. Paying other countries for oil is bad for the balance of payments. Dependence on foreign oil (or oil in general) means that the economy will be whipsawed by volatile energy prices. Many business people say that they would rather pay a high but constant price for energy, rather than be prey to volatility.

Energy Bulletin

O.K.,let's turn the question around the other way and ask: Is energy DEPENDENCE good for the nation? Kind of causes one to think doesn't it?

Let's ask a much more interesting question and one that at least may have some technical validity: Is energy diversity, in source and type, good for the nation?


"... Canada, and potentially joining union to create one North American Nation to compete with the EU."

Otherwise known as NAFTA. Political union will never happen though, firstly because it is only proposed by some Americans dreaming of manifest destiny and is opposed by the majority of Canadians. There are some nutcase Canucks proposing it because they can't get green cards, but the Monarchist League outnumbers them.

Secondly, most American politicians would not really want it. Canadian provinces are political equals with the federal government and would expect the same in a union. And do Americans really want to deal with ethnic homelands such as Quebec and Nunavut? Or, horror of horrors, cheaper and better "socialized" health care? Or, even worse, the idea of more than one official language? Or, catastrophically, gun control laws?

Setting all that aside, the USA is realistically Canada's only major customer for energy exports. Pipelines across the Rockies can ship some Alberta syncrude to China, but China can get oil cheaper and easier from central Asia, the Middle East, or Africa. Canada and the USA are joined together economically at the hip whether they like it or not.

I agree with you Dale: the only logical move would be to annex Canada. And don't worry about those folks in Quebec...we've got some Cajuns down here who would be more than happy to head north and administer a little pay back. And as far as the language thing: no problem...Canadians are smart and could pick up Spanish in no time. Gun control: again no problem...first thing we get the master list in Ottowa and take them all away.

You'll quite quickly find that Canadians have more guns per capita than americans, and a LOT more capability to use them properly. Only thing not commonly held up here is guns useful only for killing humans (handguns and assault rifles). However, a good hunting rifle with a good scope can make a lot of soldiers very nervous ;<] And you don't need any stupid master list. Simply assume (nearly correctly) that everyone has one. That's why the longgun registry stupidity you refer to was scrapped. It added nothing useful to available information.

One question though. What basis the nasty swill of "attitude"? Perhaps you're just a juvenile trying to make us think you're "tough"? No points. C'mon up and prove it, or go back to class.

It's not nasty attitude swill leng. Just a little sarcastic humor. Apologies for not making that clearer.

And I agree about the advantage of hunters: down here in Texas we don't worry about some city wacko going off the deep end with an AK. It's the potential of a seasoned deer hunter loosing it that really scares the crap out of us.

Smile and have a good day buddy.

The plan is to replicate the EU so things like the French language won't matter. What they want is even more access to Canadian resources along with more control over Canadian fiscal and trade policy-it looks like they will get it-they already have the Bank of Canada and Monkeyboy Jr. should be around for a while to help out.

Or, horror of horrors, cheaper and better "socialized" health care?

For the longest time I've been trying to get the Canadians to invade and conquer the US -- a coalition with Norway, Sweden, Finland could handle it. Just hand out leaflets promising us you'll take charge of our medical system -- you'll meet no resistance, you WILL be greeted as liberators -- except maybe by a few pharm boys.

It would solve your problem: all the snowbirds heading north for their meds. Well, I guess that's really not problem, because even at your prices there's a profit to be had.

Anyway, once you're ensconced in Washington we've a long list of other things we'd like you to handle. Talk about a quagmire!

Anyway, how about it?

Woah??? I don't know any Canadians in the states that prefer Canada's healthcare system.


Good is not relevant. Possible is the actual issue at hand, and I would submit that energy independence in the petroleum vector is not possible, therefore, notions of "Good for the Nation" are not a meaningful conversation in terms of the Transition phase of the post-petroleum world.

However, in a post-petroleum world the ONLY energy will be local, and therefore, again, whether it is "good" or not is of no consequence.

Notions of "Good for the Nation" imply choices, specifically a choice for "not-Good" and I would submit that the USA has no choice. It will import oil for decades to come. After that, it won't and it will be wholly dependent on whatever energy it can put together on its own. Whether this is "Good for the Nation" or not doesn't really matter.

best regards,

Stuart Studebaker
(who is also a professor in RL)

"And don't worry about those folks in Quebec...we've got some Cajuns down here who would be more than happy to head north and administer a little pay back."

Actually the Cajuns came from Acadia, now part of New Brunswick, and are no connection to Quebecois in their history. Also, there are more and better-armed Quebecois than Cajuns, and the Van Doos regiment has been battle-hardened in Afghanistan.

Getting back to the main point I was trying to make, there is no need for the USA to try to annex Canada because they are our best customers and vice versa. The Tories are not lapdogs of the U.S. Treasury. One of the reasons Harper failed to get a majority in the federal election yesterday is because he correctly stated during the campaign that Canada may get some backwash from the Panic of 2008, but our banking system did not have the sub-prime frauds and was not in trouble. The Liberals shot themselves in the foot by announcing their Green Shift carbon tax plan, also what the public didn't want to hear. I've seen complaints on this and other blogs that politicians won't address the true issues of Peak Oil. Damn right they won't; it is political suicide to tell the voters the truth.

Canadian investors are just as panicky now as elsewhere in the world. At a time when commodity futures and blue-chip stocks are cratering around the world, not from fundamentals but because "investors" have to cover their margins, the general public is not interested in anything other than c.y.a. As a result, the Tories had to throw a milk sop to the public, not for any real need, but just to sooth the lumpenproletariat.

I notice today in WSJ that canadian oil sands companies are reducing production and capex and need $90-$100 oil to make a profit. Receding horizons...

Let's clarify terms.

"Energy independence" suggests a state where the USA has zero energy imports. I do think that is a questionable goal.

However, a more practical interpretation of "energy independence" might that the percentage of U.S. OIL supply derived from imports DECLINES each year. (In recent decades, it has increased most years.) Easy to achieve through appropriate taxes and regulations (as other import-dependent countries do).

This would help to ease pressure on world oil markets and help the U.S. to regain some strategic flexibility.

When the import share is rising, we are like a desperate drug addict.

Everybody else knows exactly what we need. Makes us easy to "play."

Brazil has found huge oil reserves offshore.

The nine fields discovered in the last year are thought to hold 50 billion to 80 billion barrels of light crude — more than four times Brazil's current proven reserves. With the find, Brazil could supply all of its own needs for nearly a century or become one of the world's top oil exporters.

We should take a look off our shore.

The argument for energy independence is flawed for economic, strategic, and environmental reasons:
1. “Unfriendly” nations are not our primary source of oil.

Why does this make energy dependence better?

2. The U.S. oil resource base is depleted to the extent that it could not yield the roughly 3.7 billion barrels of oil the U.S imported in 2007

How do you know? Brazil did not know until they drilled the exploration wells.

3. Increased U.S. production would have little impact on the level or volatility of oil prices.

Energy independence would insulate us from world oil prices. If we stopped exporting corn, (not a recommendation) corn prices in the U.S. would drop while world prices would skyrocket.

4. Global price determination also means that energy independence won't protect our economy from supply disruptions abroad.

Why not. Independence means independence. If the wheat crop fails in Russia we still have food here.

5. The sensitivity of our economic well being to changes in the price of oil stems from the overriding importance of oil to human existence, not to our dependence on imported oil per se.

Why does this make energy dependence better than independence?

6. Oil imports are a hedge against domestic supply disruptions.

True. How does energy independence prevent us from keeping the import option as a hedge against domestic supply disruptions?

7. The costs of substitutes for oil (ethanol, electric cars, fuel cell propulsion) are more expensive than oil, and will be for at least the next decade. Forcing a transition to these fuels now will raise costs and prices. Many substitutes also carry a significant environmental cost.

We are not talking about forcing more expensive energy substitutes. We are talking about increasing domestic production of oil, gas and energy substitutes that are cheaper than imported oil.

Why is energy dependence better than that?

8. The U.S. cannot wall itself off from the international energy market.

That is what energy independence would allow.

9. Energy independence would not significantly reduce the risk of terrorism.

Yes it would, by taking away several terrorist options. Closing the straits of hormuz, sinking tankers, attacking ports, OPEC blackmail etc..

10. Energy independence would accelerate climate change. A push towards independence would inevitably lead to increased reliance on our substantial domestic resources of coal, the most carbon-intensive energy source.

Increased natural gas production would allow us to close some coal plants. Oil from OPEC releases as much CO2 as domestic oil + the shipping emissions.

The notion of energy independence is comforting and makes for a great sound bite, but it is not a sound basis for a national energy policy

Why not?

Energy independence could improve our trade balance by $400 billion or more.

Luckily we still live in the age of fossil fuel. We should have a $100 billion R&D program for when that age really does come to an end.

In fact we should accelerate that end by developing new technology cheaper than fossil energy.

I don’t want the U.S. to be energy independent, I want the U.S. to be a net energy exporter, by developing those new technologies and selling them to the rest of the world.

"Independence means independence. If the wheat crop fails in Russia we still have food here."

Doesn't this sound like the protectionistic-nationalistic wave that swept over the world after the crash of 1873 (the grandmother of the present, as Scott Nelson's explains in his much cited article.

As far as I know this attitude didn't do any good in the following Great Depression.
I still hope that in the post peak world does not necessarily need to push mankind all the way back in history to the time before the Petroleum Age.

The nine fields discovered in the last year are thought to hold 50 billion to 80 billion barrels of light crude

Source for this quote? Is this oil in place, or estimated URR? In any case, recoverable reserves in this range would postpone the world peak by less than a year.

We are talking about increasing domestic production of oil, gas and energy substitutes that are cheaper than imported oil.

Could you explain why domestic producers would sell oil at less than world prices?

In fact we should accelerate that end by developing new technology cheaper than fossil energy.

This statement reminds me of the crap commercials BP and Exxon Mobil are running on TV. Let's not worry, all we have to do is "want" an easy energy future and it will come true. I have yet to see a single new technology that will be both cheaper than fossil fuel and scale up enough to replace more than a few percent of the amount of fossil fuel we are currently using. Keep in mind it is transportation fuel which is the toughest problem we need to solve.

New energy technologies have been covered consistently on TOD. Those that seem promising at the first glance fall short after a detailed analysis. Will a $100 billion R&D program in energy technology be the answer? Does anyone know of a promising new technology that can produce energy on the scale that we need for transportation which is being hampered by a lack of funding?

The problem with developing technology that is cheaper than fossil fuel is that the Oil companies snatch them all up and when necessary shelf them. The solar field is a perfect example. If a So. African company comes up with a technology vastly superior (approx. twice as efficient and twice as inexpensive) it will never see the light of day to benefit mankind. and Many months later I looked up this story again and saw that Shell had purchased them. Do you really think that they want us to be able to power everything in a house with solar? The oil companies are doing great work at keeping solar just a little too expensive to gain serious momentum. Germany and some other nations are pushing the envelope, but they too are slowed by Oil's current stranglehold of buying up solar firms and materials.

Eventually The dirty oil boys will not be able to keep the good stuff from us (perhaps), but it is absolutely fascinating how well they have done so far. As far as seeming promising at first and then falling far short, in many cases we just allow ourselves to be had over and over.


This "breakthrough" by Professor Vivian Alberts is exactly what I'm talking about. Extensive research on the net shows dozens of feel good stories but little data to allow an analysis. The two links you provide reference a story in the Cape Argus newspaper in South Africa. One thing I did not find was any reference to Shell purchasing the company. I did find this link from August 2007 describing the company's owners.

From my research it looks like Professor Albert's technology is viable enough to be placed into commercial service. But it does not live up to the hype it received in 2006.

Solar cell technology is rapidly advancing each year. The problem is the advances to date in efficiency and reduced cost are too far too small to have an impact on our overall energy future. No discussion of energy is helpful without including scale.

Correct me if I'm wrong but with todays technology, if you could make lots of solar panels cheap it would barely put a dent in oil demand. It would offset some small percent of natural gas consumption in some regions of the world.

BP and co have no incentive to hold back solar if you ask me. When GE makes a sizeable investment in scaled facilities then solar will have arrived.

Discussion points on alternative/new energy are false based upon Oil's ability to stamp out any and all alternative energy that SERIOUSLY threatens their bottom line.

Just one of dozens of examples, Purdue University not getting funding for a serious hydrogen technology because it is a technology that is too good and competes with the U.S. Governments (which is Big Oil in case you are not paying close attention) oil intensive and won't really work scam to build hydrogen re-fueling stations all across the country. The Purdue Univ. researcher has gone on record as saying that funding won't come through because it competes with the big oil/governments half baked, completely ridiculous hydrogen car fraud.

Or research Edwin Grays work. Before you dismiss him as a fraud, you really need to r e s e a r c h . Gray had received an award, had numerous write ups, had his motor already verified as doing what he claimed and is now dead. Look at the intense shut down by the local DA, and how not a single one of his investors went after him for fraud because he had demonstrated his magnetic motor (if it were voodoo magic then it would in hindsight 'smell' like a fraud-sniff it out yourself)

Or research this firm (duplicate from above)
and look for the follow up story, or just (risky) take my word for it that Shell has bought them and it is now a 'dead' story. I'll bet it gained the Solar guys a hell of a nice life style, oh come on you'd take the money to shut up and go away too (even if you didn't think that you would). What is actually remarkable is that many here will once again ascribe this as something that looked really good but upon closer inspection wasn't. You have been 'had' over and over and over. Do you really think that a breakthrough that is cheap and will let man power an entire American Household on Solar will just appear on the market through the good graces of the dirty oil boys?

Eventually the good stuff may break through, but it will not happen by Government funding of alt. energies or an Oil
companies solar division, just as the pharmaceutical mafiosos wont market or advertise natural cures and an amino acid such as L-lysine -almost as cheap as dirt) that cure oral herpes. Oh, and don't ascribe these examples as conspiracy, they are simply true stories of greed winning again and again.


The presidential debate starts in a minute so I'll just ask for some info. Please provide a link to the Purdue University hydrogen story. Also, if you can find a link to a serious scientific article which discuses Edwin Gray's 1970's "no-fuel electric motor" that would be helpful.

Priority X, thanks for the link. I am looking into the investors and 're-structuring' to find the Shell connection.
What I suspect is happening with the company is that the costs and efficiency improvements are being brought into line
with what (oil/coal) find to be acceptable which is as we know a very small improvement over what is available. It is clear that oil has it's grubby hands all over the So. African Company and logic tells me that this is NOT a good development. I believe that Shell is involved but can't source it though I'm still trying. I also suspect that 'Oil' is involved with the mentioned South Africa’s State-owned Central Energy Fund-seems likely, right?

There is a slight parallel with the 'watering down' effect that is commonly seen in medicine. Studies done on natural compounds efficacy in treating cancer are hard to find, but there have been a few (double blind, solid research) and Joe Public doesn't cry out or object to what unfolds. The natural compound from a mushroom plant is highly successful (say 90% cure rate) it is then synthesized (good bye natural compounds) by a pharmaceutical co. and we see a cure rate of about 30%-which is considered a great success. A very crude example can be seen in Marinol efficacy as compared with Marijuana on nausea. A survey of those who have tried both the Marinol capsule and the marijuana plant will show how much better the plant works for nausea, appetite etc.

Priority X,
links coming, may take a little bit, the Edwin Gray story is amazing. (going to listen to the candidates lie about government spending)

Here's the Purdue University hydrogen story, How are they going to compete with the hydrogen refueling systems that are already partly in place? We aren't necessarily getting the best technology ( prob. never have so no worries, eh) just the oil companies feasting away making sure that they win the lottery through out any of the amazingly slowed switch overs and they are determined that we stay attached to their teat.

End Oil Aid. Right hand column to have a voice.
Tracking Oil dictating policy

Edwin Gray, you asked for good scientific sources. Are you kidding *emphasis added*?
There are the papers by his assistant and verification by a scientist that his motor ran as he claimed.
There are claims from family that they saw the engine running many times. There are demonstrations of his motor to members of the pentagon and there is his unusual death. There is a lengthy detailed presentation on how his motor worked by Dr. Lindemann available on DVD, perhaps now avail. on the internet. Gary Magrattan is but one of several attempting replicators of patents filed by Edwin Gray. Magrattan does appear to have replicated the 'lightning bolt' charge that Edwin Gray called 'splitting the positive' (same as Tesla essentially) but can't piece it all together. The Bedini motor is also not said to have all the kinks worked out. Edwin Gray never made it to the big boys science club, so of course there aren't papers as you'd like. Then California Governor, Ronald Reagan handed Gray an award for for his work on the magnetic motor that would usher in the end of the combustion engine, does that count (lol)? I think he was silenced. Unfortunately he was difficult, paranoid, and apparently greedier then a couple of prominent offers for his technology. Do companies offer 10 billion dollars for a scam? The Dr. Lindemann DVD is excellent if you are a Tesla fan. Most of the siblings (Edwin Gray's 11 children) have a copy of an 8-hour video tape regarding the technology and its documentation, including footage from an Idaho television station filming a prototype that was being tested for NASA. from the website Ask one of the kids if you can watch the tape I guess.

The tech. isn't out yet, no one can piece together the parts that Gray left out. It does appear to me though that Gray
did successfully re-work Tesla's energy. I'm a lot more doubtful of the Irish Company Steorn's claims of amazing energy than I am of Grays. Gray does have science in his work (see the Dr. Lindemann lecture) Hopefully it will be re-discovered soon.


I'm sorry, but this is all crank conspiracy theorizing.

Nikola Tesla's advances were genius engineering based on putting the theories of James Clerk Maxwell into practice.  Maxwell's equations are, in physics-speak, conservative:  energy, linear and angular momentum are all conserved quantities (no free lunch).  Tesla's advances like the induction motor (and playthings like the Tesla coil) all respect the known laws of physics.

There is a small amount of energy stored in magnets.  If you take this energy out, they stop being magnets.  And if you believe either Steorn or Gray, someone has already sold you a bridge.

As was said "energy independence" polls well. For lefties, it means conservation, for righties it means drill-drill-drill, and the illusion that the only thing preventing a trillion barrels of oil from oilshale is liberal opposition.

Now some politicians use a pretty transparent (but I never see the press catch them on it) fudge. Obama uses, independence from middle east oil, -or from Saudi oil. That is achievable today, by simply shifting the sources of our imports. But of course that does nothing about the financial and security issues involved with needing so import so much oil. A somewhat better definition of independence is rough parity between imports and exports. That doesn't mean no imports, but it does mean that oil has little or no effect on the current account deficit. That is still twenty years away, by my estimation, not ten. But it could still be done. And it is well worth the effort/expense. And my reading of WestTexas's export land model, is that we have at most thirty years before there is no oil to import. So pushing for a twenty year program only makes sense, as any slippage in the schedule -or faster than expected depletion and the ten year cushion could easily vanish.

As said, the only feasible way to make significant progress is serious conservation, and a seriously aggressive move towards electrified transportation. Prof Cleveland is correct about the cost. Battery capacity is expensive, and likely to remain so. We can't afford to convert to a nation of electric Hummers. But we could convert to plugin Priuses (used for carpooling), and Aptera sized electric vehicles. This represents a signficant departure from BAU, but it is our best chance to minimize the coming damage from ever more expensive oil. Of course we still have a serious investment in existing vehicles, I think we would like to save enough oil to keep these legacy vehicles going until they wear out. But all replacements should be no or very low liquid fuel consumers.

I'm glad that someone had the courage to discuss this issue. However, what you are missing is that Professor Goose is the mastermind behind all of the global major oil company conspiracies to deprive the world of hydrogen powered perpetual motion machines.

Energy independence is a worthy and essential goal for the US.

First it would require Americans to become more energy literate.

The energy companies don't want people to comprehend the issue and instead rely on PR firms for answers(like of the American Petroleum Institute).

Hopefully, energy independence will force people to think of ways of reducing their energy use and also make corporations invest in energy conservation.

Unworkable proposals like "drill, drill, drill" would soon be debunked if there was a national consensus on energy(proponents would look idiotic when it is pointed out that less than 25% of offshore oil is in offshore areas under moritorium or that we keep losing rigs in GOM due to regular hurricane events.

Second it is a way to reduce our exposure to risky foreign entanglements. Today about 51% of US oil imports is from 'America's enemies' by which I mean our economic adversaries--OPEC and Russia(the reason is that these countries are not so much our enemies as the enemies of Big Oil, who we patrioticly ape and so we reflect Big Oil's attitude). Strangely our natural economic competitors-the OECD and Chindia are not considered 'enemies'.

Third, America is a large producer of energy today and is as abundant
(though limited) in natural resources, more than any single country expect Russia. It is blindness and greed for us to covet
the resources of other countries even under the pretence of protecting international trade (a trade which favors americans over others).

(Is it any more logical to import fuel to burn in this country? Should the US burn up resources in other countries so they can't use them?)

It isn't inevitable that energy independence will lead to more domestic fossil fuel production and more CO2 if we understand that fossil fuels are limited.

The biggest advantage of energy independence is that it forces the government to attempt to create a coherent government energy policy. This won't happen without a policy of energy independence because the alternative, energy dependency is BAU.

Could you explain why domestic producers would sell oil at less than world prices?

If U.S. production exceeded U.S. consumption, and the sale of U.S. oil was banned outside the U.S. than the U.S. price would be independent of the world price. Price would drop until an equilibrium was established.

New energy technologies have been covered consistently on TOD. Those that seem promising at the first glance fall short after a detailed analysis. Will a $100 billion R&D program in energy technology be the answer?

Do you know of a more likely way to create breakthroughs in energy technology, a $200 billion R&D program perhaps?

The problem with developing technology that is cheaper than fossil fuel is that the Oil companies snatch them all up and when necessary shelf them.

That may be true for small privately financed R&D, but the results of government sponsored work would be in the public domain.

Unworkable proposals like "drill, drill, drill" would soon be debunked if there was a national consensus on energy

How do you know? Large areas have not been drilled and mapped yet. Drilling is only one short term response in an integrated plan to transition off fossil fuel.


The US has an estimated 83.75 Gb of offshore oil of which 66.8 Gb (80%)of oil is leasable today. These estimates are gleaned from geological data.

'There's a prospective Ghawar under every rock' seems to be your answer to depletion of all kinds.

You never seem to believe the estimates of geologists (on uranium for example).
The whole world HAS been mapped and drilled(except Antarctica where exploration is forbiden).
There have been few new discovery of even medium size in the past few decades despite billions spent in exploration.

How you could miss this on TOD is rather odd.

Did you forget to take your cornucopian blinders off?

The US has an estimated 83.75 Gb of offshore oil of which 66.8 Gb

Add in Bakken reserves and Alaska on and offshore reserves.

Keep in mind that drill drill drill is one small part of an integrated plan, not THE plan.

You never seem to believe the estimates of geologists (on uranium for example).

4.6 billion tons in seawater is well documented. Thorium is more abundant than uranium. What is the controversy?

The whole world HAS been mapped and drilled(except Antarctica where exploration is forbiden).

What were the estimates for Brazil before they found their large deposits?

Alaska probably has a great deal of oil. The Bakken deposit was just recently evaluated.

How you could miss this on TOD is rather odd.
Did you forget to take your cornucopian blinders off?

Did you miss the fact that this is a short term strategy to get us through the transition? Show us your better plan, that is actually practical, not pie in the sky.

The Bakken is 3-4 Gb according to the USGS. It seems unlikely that it provide even .3 Gb per year.

The North Slope Alaska is a 29 Gb resource according to USGS.
Unfortunately the Alaska pipeline can push at most 2 million barrels per day (.7Gb per year) so that unless we build another pipeline we can't hope for more oil from there. Meanwhile Alaska's Prudhome oilfield is steeply down to 800,000 barrels per day.

The US imports 2.3 Gb per year from OPEC+Russia(our enemies)and the overall imports are 5 Gb.
Your plan of drill,drill,drill adds up to almost nothing.

Colorado oil shale could deliver much more oil than the drill, drill, drill plan but that's more like Canadian tar sands than drilling.

Brazil has about 13 Gb according to the EIA Jan. 2008, up about 2-3 Gb from 2007(excepting the speculative Sugar Loaf field).

The best short run plan is conservation. A carbon tax would discourage driving, hybrid cars help tremendously and some form of gas rationing. Our communication technology could reduce the need for mass commuting and lifestyle changes would help greatly.

About 45% of refinery output goes for gasoline, 26% for diesel, 10% for jet fuel, 4% for heating oil, 4% for LPG and the rest (11%) for chemicals.

Right now the US can replace a lot of home heating oil with high efficency heat pumps and natural gas furnaces. LPG could be replaced with dimethyl ether from coal as the Chinese are .
The best solution here is to replace inefficient homes with super insulated homes that require minimal energy. Save 150 mb HO.

The easiest way to replace gasoline is to 1. improve the efficiencies of cars above 35 mpg(cutting the demand for gasoline by a third) by junking inefficent cars. That would save 33% of the gasoline.

At that point we could further reduce gasoline by mandating that cars be E85 compatible(by conversion or new). Because we have reduced 125 billion gallons of gasoline to 82.5 billion gallons we can now use ~15 billion gallons of ethanol to reduce that number to 72.5 billion gallons of gasoline(1.8 Gb).
Beyond this we could make methanol from coal as a partial replacement for gasoline as the Chinese do now.

It's hard to see how we can reduce jetfuel too much, so knock off 20% for carbon tax and you have 500 million barrels of jet fuel per year.

The next step is diesel fuel which mainly goes into truck travel;
the US uses about 38 billion gallons of diesel fuel for trucks.
The diesel trains use about 4 billion gallons.
The solution is to reduce long distance truck traffic by using the existing rail system for that purpose.
About 25% of all rail traffic is for coal shipment. By developing the national electrical grid with renewable energy and mine-mouth IGCC-CCS clean coal plants, we can end coal trains and make room for more truck intramodal rail. I don't know exactly how much this would save but I'd guess around 20% of the diesel. Again I'd use carbon taxes to discourage wasteful
diesel use so I guess we could reduce the diesel by about 11 billion gallons(25%) with this trick.

The next step is to convert heavy diesel trucks as dual fuel diesel/LNG vehicles. These trucks have a 400 mile range and diesel is used to start the trucks but once warm they switch to natural gas. This could also work for buses and other short range
transport. I would guess this could potentially cut the remaining diesel use by another 33% down to 19 billion gallons of diesel.

We use about 4 billion gallons of diesel for boats and that could be slightly cut by carbon tax disincentives.

I will reduce the 15% of crude going to chemicals ~20% by carbon tax disincentives leaving 700 million barrels of crude going to the chemical industry.

So far under my plan
Before After
gasoline 3.3 1.8 (ethanol)
aviation .7 .5
htgoil/lpg .7 .1 (NG, electricity)
diesel 1.3 .5 (LNG, trains)
chemicals 1 .7
totals 7 Gb/a 3.6Gb/a, a 49% reduction

Current US production (maintain)------------------------2 Gb/a
Increase 60 year Canada tar sands (2.5 mbpd)------------1 Gb/a
Increase +100 year US oil shale(1.5 mbpd) or imports---.6 Gb/a

That’s a good start on the short term strategy majorian, I agree with most of it. I see no reason the drill cubed idea cannot be part of it.

New rigs can be built. Existing rigs can be applied to the most productive reserves. Tankers are being parked due to the reduction in consumption. With artic ice going away they can be use to ship huge amounts of oil out of northern Alaska.

I oppose rationing, people with connections have lots of gas, and honest people don’t. It would be a huge cash cow for organized crime. Let supply and demand set the price.

Dual fuel cars should be oil/natural gas, not ethanol. We are depleting top soil and phosphate deposits at lightning speed on a geologic time scale. These resources should be preserved for food production.

Mass produce floating nuclear power plants.

Convert stationary natural gas users to electricity wherever possible.

Build hybrid trucks with a minimum 40 mile battery range. Install overhead charging cables at 40 mile intervals and on all uphill grades. Trucks can climb hills at full speed with unlimited power and charge batteries on the downhill grades.

Electrify trains. Shutdown coal plants to free up train capacity.

You completely missed the point.
The most important part is to reduce oil consumption by about 50%, if we do that everything gets easier, if not it gets infinitely harder.
We can't grow our way out of this.

I think rationing by carbon credit is the right way to go but if necessary I would impose WW2 style rationing. During the war, the weekly ration of gasoline was 4 or 8 gallons and the speed limit was 40 mph. There was a small blackmarket but most people were patriotic. Your libertarian argument would suggest we should eliminate drug laws because illegal drugs feeds crime(what about the effects of drugs).

I don't know where you get that we are depleting the soil at lightning speed by making ethanol. The energy bill limits the amount of corn ethanol and cellulosic starting production in Iowa now. We use almost all phosphates for regular foodstuffs now. Using trees or switchgrass won't require phosphates.

Also, ethanol is net positive energy so if you input fossil fuels you get more fuel out. The only reason to go with NG is that there is a lot of it in the US and ethanol is limited by the amount of land(but not so much with cellulosic).

There's no such thing as a gasoline-LNG car. CNG cars get about the same equivalent mileage as E85 cars and would encourage consumption as do all personal cars. The idea of LNG is to greatly reduce the use of diesel fuel in buses, and short range freight trucks.

As you know, I think an expansion of nuclear power is ridiculous. And what is the idea of floating nuke plants? What are they hooked up to?

Wind can replace some NG generation if it's overbuilt, but some NG will always be needed for peaking. But first you need a state of the art grid.
Batteries are for golf carts. There's not enough lithium or nickle in the world to make battery powered transport realistic.
Electric cars means more electricity consumption with cheap fuel(kwh); The idea is to reduce consumption.

I don't support electrification of rail. Trains don't use a lot of diesel for the work done and are 10 times more efficient than trucks. Mass transit is not needed if people can work in or near their homes. The idea is to replace long distance truck usage with trains. A big rail electrification project would shutdown trainlines and interfere with the goal. Ideally we should reduce our need for lots of goods and so the need for trains, highways, etc. is hugely reduced.

You completely missed the point. The most important part is to reduce oil consumption by about 50%

Actually you missed the point. The most important thing is to stop burning coal, even James Hansen agrees with this.

Your libertarian argument would suggest we should eliminate drug laws because illegal drugs feeds crime(what about the effects of drugs).

Not true. I think all recreational drugs should be treated like alcohol. We would have much safer drugs for users, a huge new tax base and a lower crime rate.

We could solve the Afghanistan problem by letting the farmers market their products here. They would get a much better price, be able to afford decent housing and schools for their children, want stronger relations with the U.S., and our enemies would loose a huge source of income.

Do you want to go back to prohibition?

I don't know where you get that we are depleting the soil at lightning speed by making ethanol.

Corn ethanol should be zeroed out.

There's no such thing as a gasoline-LNG car.

Who said there are, and why is it important?

As you know, I think an expansion of nuclear power is ridiculous. And what is the idea of floating nuke plants? What are they hooked up to?

They are hooked up to underwater power cables, the same as offshore windfarms, but much higher capacity cables obviously.

Bingo, Marjorian. The "drill, drill, drill" crowd is blissfully unaware that rigs are all 100% booked out for four or five years with deep rigs even longer than that. Makes you wonder about the rest of their energy policy. Moreover, deep wildcat tests in marginal offshore hydrocarbon basins are almost ridiculously expensive even if the equipment is available.

The only way private companies will make these investments is with subsidies that are so massive they effectively guarantee P&A costs. Deep offshore oil costs close to $100/bbl even for huge fields. Not a very "private sector" approach but a great excuse to give Big Oil lots more money. I think that's the subtext of "drill, drill, drill" politicians.

In addition, my understanding is that deep pre-salt fields are all in what we used to call "the gas window" in the foothills, so they are quoted in terms of BOE's not crude oil. Successful deep tests will leave us stuck with more gas and HGNL and no solution to the basic transportation infrastructure problems.

BTW, I want to wish KSA good luck in its latest attempt to undermine energy markets. As far as energy policy is concerned, with friends like these... It's high time for TOD to take a hard look at the agenda of the cornucopians and short-termists like KSA. They behave as if they don't need to consider the long term at all. Do they know something we don't?

If U.S. production exceeded U.S. consumption, and the sale of U.S. oil was banned outside the U.S. than the U.S. price would be independent of the world price. Price would drop until an equilibrium was established.

Good idea. We take a high cost producing area--the US--and tell producers that if they are successful in getting their production up, they can look forward to prices lower than what producers outside the US are getting.

Anyone who talks about energy independence should be required to put a time frame on it. Can the US eliminate its energy imports in two years? No, not a chance. In a hundred years? Almost by definition, as the world's available stocks of shippable fuels deplete. The interesting questions are when and how, not whether it will eventually happen.

And yes, I know I'm discounting plans to build enormous high-voltage DC transmission facilities and "ship" electricity from equatorial deserts and wind-rich areas to the rest of the world. Such systems may be technically practical; but I think they are far too fragile to defend from the people who want to keep the electricity for themselves and their own economies.

A couple of sticks of dynamite planted by an aggrieved local and your transmission system is down. I know many think that HVDC sytems are a silver bullet but again I point out a local underwater HVDC cable has brought major dependence on coal fired electricity to a place that never had it before.

Some ballpark figures for estimating HVDC costs; $300m for the inverter-rectifier stations at either end and $2-4m per kilometre depending upon pylons, seabed cable or buried cable. Morocco to Europe won't be cheap. When a light plane, fishing trawler or farm tractor snags a two way cable it could be quite an event.

If you didn't build because it may be a terrorist target, you wouldn't build any tall buildings, subways, bridges, nuclear power plants, ships, in fact any infrastructure. Transmission lines are fairly robust, easy to bring down but easy to repair. Europe to Morocco is shorter than the Tasmania to Victoria underwater cable, cables are usually buried. Light planes regularly fly into power cables.
If we want renewable energy we need a national HVDC grid.

Here's another suggestion. Energy independence is probably impossible and horrendously inefficient. How about "energy resilience", where there are choices for consumers, local resources are maximized and backstop solutions planned in critical areas? Kind of like insurance for spikes (and canyons) in oil prices.

It's expensive insurance. Distributed systems show some promise, but they are all very expensive compared to oil. It may be a better term, and worthy modality, but resilience is a little subtle for campaign sloganeering... "Energy security" is a better way to state this goal. Independence is BS.

Prof Cleveland,
While most of your points make sense, point 7 does not!
"The costs of substitutes for oil (ethanol, electric cars, fuel cell propulsion) are more expensive than oil, and will be for at least the next decade. Forcing a transition to these fuels now will raise costs and prices. Many substitutes also carry a significant environmental cost".
We cannot calculate the cost of oil in the next 10years but its clear that the US cannot afford to import 13 million barrels per day unless its price is less than $70/barrel.
You have ignored the one very large substitution; dramatic increases in fuel economy from the present 25mpg and a dramatic decrease in vehicle miles traveled.
I would question your assertion that EV are more expensive than oil, certainly, at 0.2kWh per mile energy costs are 2-3cents/mile for EV, while at 25mpg gasoline costing $4/gallon works out at 15cents/mile. Battery costs will depend upon range and technology but with 25mile range used twice a day would be saving about $6 x360 days= >$2,000 a year, assuming that oil prices don't go above $120/barrel. Even using lead/acid batteries you would be ahead in the first 2 years.

I don't think that the lack of connection between oil and terrorism is very well founded. Offering as evidence the dollar cost of the 9/11 operation seems unpersuasive. There is also the cost of maintaining the Taliban in Afganistan and the network of schools which promote the idea that the US is the great enemy. All of this benefits from oil profits.

On the other hand, those profits are present above $20/barrel and surely we see fluctuations of US military annual budgets as a fraction of GDP both in response to security concerns and GDP behavior so the amount of support terrorism gets will have a similarly complex relationship to oil profits.

Energy independence efforts which seek to minimize oil profits could have the effect of reducing financial support for terrorism but they might also encourage fanaticism which is even more needful for terrorism than funding. It is a mixed bag. One thing that might be tried is a boycott of Saudi oil growing to a naval blockage if the responsible parties are not turned over. This would take discipline beyond the apparent capacity of current political leadership but might settle the whole matter quickly and satisfactorily. This would be more direct than attempting to use price as leverage.


Chris -- I think your plan assumes too much capability by the KSA gov't. It strikes my as the same as telling a New Jersey business man that he has to apprehend the mobsters forcing him to pay protection money and to then turn them over to the police. And if he doesn't comply, his business will be shut down and he'll loose all his revenue. Denying the KSA revenuw won't hurt the ruling powers. They can relocate to France and live the good life. It will financially hurt the general public of the KSA...a tactic which would likely grow the breeding ground for the terrorist recruiters.

It would be just as fair to blame that NJ business owner for supporting the mob.

If your NJ business man were also the in-law of the mob boss, he might have the needed leverage. I think this is closer to the situation. We want the capture of the educated sons of the political elite in the KSA which is a little different from your example.


Not really Chris. I went to high school in New Orleans with a kid who daddy got an ice pick in the ear because he crossed the Dixie Mafia. And his uncle was later convicted with ordering the hit. I'm not saying there aren't pressure points to be exploited but I feel your approach is a little simplisic for the complexity of the power structure in the Middle East. But what the hell....lets just redeploy south from Iraq and give it a try. No one will like any less than they do now.

Actually, I said boycott rising to blockade, not invasion.

The kid's father might have turned in the uncle had pressure been applied. I think the example here is that New Orleans does not want to put the resources into law enforcement. Similarly, we won't boycott Saudi oil because it costs us something. But, it seems to me that if we did have the courage, we could capture our enemies without loss of life.


It doesn't cost much to get a retarded person to strap up in a bomb vest. Without a strong oil economy, there are a lot more retarded people available and willing.

But you could also argue that the middle eastern nations would be too busy fighting between themselves to go after the west. you never really know until it happens.

Sorry to be jumping in a bit late into this discussion, but I must make an important point:

If the Export Land Model analysis by westtexas is correct, then the US WILL eventually see energy independence, whether it wants it or not, because there will be NO MORE oil available to be imported.

To be sure, this won't be happening for a couple of decades (hopefully), but happen it eventually will.

Thus, rather than talking about how we can achieve energy independence, what we really need to be talking about is how we can prepare to cope with this looming energy independence.

It won't be very long at all now before the imports start coming up short, and then start declining more and more. Add to the mix the threat that as our oil imports decline, we will become even MORE VULNERABLE to sudden supply disruptions, whether by natural accident or geopolitical event. We've only got a couple of decades to adjust our economy to the reality that we will only have our own (and maybe just a little of Canada's and Mexico's) continually depleting oil resources. This is going to be a huge adjustment. Yes, we do need to be developing the whole range of other energy resources, as much as we can and as fast as we can. I am doubtful, however, that we can come anywhere close to a 1:1 replacement for those declining oil exports. Thus, one way or another, there will have to be demand destruction as well. We would all prefer that the demand destruction be realized through energy efficiency, and certainly some of it will be. Unfortunately, given the poor leadership and planning that we have in this country, there will likely be a lot of pain as well.

This is something that the US public needs to hear, but they are unlikely to hear it from either of the Presidential candidates, unfortunately.

S&P v Baltic. Mirrors.

Ships are being mothballed now.

Everyone just saw blantant manipulation of the markets.

Up to the open futures were 1% in the green.

Already down 71 pts at 8:34.

"HAHAHA. Literally 5 days before Nixon unilaterally ended the 100 year old gold peg, Burns was assuring everyone that all was well! The reports of the coming demise of the dollar was just mere hysteria. It was only due to some oddball business in international exchanges that was troubling us, no big deal! Nothing to worry about. This is typical of the gang that runs our nation: they are bald-faced liars who then spring their 'solutions' on us in a flash when they yell, 'Forget what I said 5 days ago! Things are in a CRISIS! We got to rush and fix it, fast! Give me all your future earnings! Thanks in advance.'

We saw this in September. They said over and over again, there was nothing wrong with the fundamentals. All was well. The disorders were temporary. Not to worry, dudes! Then, despite many of us online doomsters yelling about these very same things, the mainstream media joined the Bilderberger-based leadership in screaming, 'Its the end of the world! The sky is falling! Give us all your future earnings and let us have draconian powers and we will save you!'

This is why it pays to read musty, old speeches and put them into context with their own time frames as well as today. We learn to be very suspicious of these guys. And rightfully, so!"
-Elaine Supkis

Discussion on energy independence always irritates me. Imagine for a moment that the US was completely self sufficient in fuel products. This could be in ten, twenty, fifty years, whenever, the key assumption is that domestic supply could meet domestic demand regardless of its level of demand and regardless of whether supply was traditional oil, CTL, biofuels, oil shale, hydrogen, whatever. The point I want to focus on is the price – which is really all that matters. When we worry about energy security we are really worried about the price because it is the price which distributes scarce resources. Fewer resources means higher prices and fewer people able to afford them.

In the self sufficient case, would the price of domestic fuel be completely independent of the world price?

No. Of course not. Not unless the fuel used in the US was different to that used in the rest of the world – very unlikely (I could go into why, but wont).

Why would the US price still be the world price?

Think about what would happen if the price of fuel in the US was below the world price. US fuel producers would have a strong incentive to export to the world market and get higher prices for their product. To dissuade them from exporting, either the US Government would have to ban or restrict exports, or the domestic price would have to rise to the world price.

Why wouldn’t the government restrict exports? Well, two reasons. Firstly that would mean that US companies would have lower exports and lower profits than they might otherwise. This would result in lower welfare (lower incomes, lower living standards) for US citizens and lower taxation revenues for the US government.

Secondly, there would be less incentive for further exploration and fuel development in the US – multinational companies would shift these activities outside the US and over the longer term, the US price would rise – or the world price would fall.

In the second case where the US price was above the world price, well, that’s simple; importers would buy low on international markets and sell high on the US market until US prices matched world prices. Its called arbitrage.

Again, should the Government act to restrict such imports this would result in a real and immediate welfare loss for the US. Its citizens would have to pay more for a resource than people elsewhere. This would be an unnecessary drag on the economy which would then grow more slowly (or shrink more quickly) than it would if prices were level. This would be a classic case of a gain from trade.

Subsidizing expensive US fuel would be even worse – this would imply some sort of government redistribution. This means higher taxes to both make oil cheaper, and pay for the collection and administration of the subsidy. The cost of subsidizing fuel would show up as higher prices or taxes elsewhere. (This is of course, a more general argument against those who advocate government support for otherwise unviable alternative fuels.)

The point is that we are all better off if markets are open - interdependence here really is the best choice for the US. And importantly, we are all better off if the US is connected to the international market even if a significant proportion of global suppliers are part of a cartel which manipulates the price. Energy Independence is neither a good nor practical aim if the foundation for policy is increasing the welfare of US citizens.

I completely disagree with the interdependence point, though I support open markets. Globalism results in optimally efficient but fragile systems, subject to the cycles of every market, but with worldwide consequences. Localism results in robust but only locally efficient markets....but that's good enough.

I prefer to consider the notion of energy neutrality, and commerce balance. I believe that a diverse energy base is robust, and low-cost but efficiently used energy is the goal. Competing energy markets (including a currently almost non-existent negawatts market) should help control prices while fostering innovation.

We WILL become much closer to energy neutral, whether we like it or not, as the current lopsided balance of trade is unsustainable. Eventually our exports have to level out to match our imports, and this will require much less import energy expense. Certainly lower import costs would help, but lower import quantities would too. Higher exports would help as well, and dollar devaluation might help this along. All of the above would help most.

Higher energy prices hurt economic activities, but if you have to pay high prices to somebody you should try to pay it to your neighbor rather than an international entity or even enemy.

National investment should promote energy efficiency first and alternative sources second, IMHO. The existing markets seem to have the existing sources pieces of the puzzle pretty well covered already.

I have to take issue with #9. To claim that it only costed a half million dollars to pull off 9/11 totally ignores the fact that it would not have been possible without the help of an enormously corrupt and inefficient military and security infrastructure. Even if you believe in the tooth fairy and that 9/11 wasnt an inside job, you still cant deny the fact that these trillions of dollars of systemic flaws were a key contributing factor.

If imported oil (or "energy") is considered bad, then why not put a tax on it to discourage its use?

Because we all know that the price of gasoline is set by the market, a tax on imported crude oil would have the effect of driving down revenues to oil exporting countries. The federal government would have some extra revenue to pay for bank bailouts.

OPEC hates the high taxes on oil products imposed by European governments (that mostly have little domestic production) because it lowers their oil rents.

Am I the only one here who things that this point is, well, pretty lame?

9. Energy independence would not significantly reduce the risk of terrorism. Terrorism thrived when oil was $10 per barrel—it doesn’t need $100 a barrel oil. Terrorism can be done on the cheap: the 9/11 Commission found that those attacks were accomplished with as little as $500,000.

Let's see: Terrorists can bring down a couple of skyscrapers on a half $million budget. And he's saying, implicitly, that increasing their budget to, say, $10 million isn't going to effect the frequency or severity of their attacks? Because, of course, 9/11 is worst conceivable terrorist action that could possibly be perpetrated on the US?

Say WTF?!

There are rouge nukes out there for sale, if you know the right people and have enough money. But I'll bet a black market nuke costs in the millions or tens of millions -- a budget that has historically been out of reach of non-state-sponsored terrorists. That may not be true any more.

Good point GE. Especially if one accepts that one possible reason for our situation in Iraq is that it siphons a considerable amount of capital and man power from our enemies which might be otherwise be directed towards our soil. This not dissimilar to McNamara's theory about the "fire base concept" in Vietnam. By locating our forces in a fixed position the enemy could concentrate his forces in opposition. Which allowed our forces to concentrate their efforts against the enemy. Not a bad theory unless it was you ass they turned into a Judas goat that got motared every night.

Well, that presupposes that our presence in Iraq has anything at all to do with terrorism, other than the fact that the war was sold to the American people using fear of terrorism. Oil, ego, and money are all much more significant parts of THAT particular picture.

True GE. But I suspect the path that led us to Iraq developed from various agendas which supported each others position so as to achieve their own. That's why the debates over why we are there don't interest me too much. I would guess that the military wanted to develop a "fire base" approach as a way to take on terrorists. Even if you don't think it's moral to use another country as a free fire zone you might still admit it worked at that level. Our dedicated enemy is expending huge sums of capital and man power in Iraq.

I've never felt it happened because one person made a decision based on one reason. Actually, now that I think of it, our movement into Iraq might best be explained by mob mentality.

I agree with all of your points. I would add one more -- disincentives to other nations. While we can argue all day about the relative success of the war, one item is clear: the Saddam regime is no more. We may not be able to fix things, but we have proven beyond a doubt our ability to break them. Having a "game field" on someone else's turf is a proven cold war strategy, as Korea and Vietnam aptly prove. I doubt any country, including Iran, Syria, and Libya, want to push things to the point that the conflict moves to their turf.

I don't think the level of troops required was in the original plan though, as obviously it's costing more money, equipment, and personnel commitments that we can easily afford. The political goal of stabilizing the country makes the process a lot harder than just maintaining fire-bases. That's the problem with a mob or coalition mentality -- many factions have many goals, making ongoing "acceptable solutions" ever more elusive.

Ah, right. Because the 3000 people we lost on 9/11 demands that we kill nearly twice as many of our soldiers and twenty times as many Iraqi civilians... for what? Revenge? Certainly not to keep us safer: Our actions in Iraq have not drawn the existing population of terrorists to us -- they have radicalized an entire population and generated thousands of new terrorists and potential terrorists. For all his many evils, Sadam was a secular leader. He had no use for the religious fundamentalists, and was not allied with them (despite the lies to the contrary that this Administration has tried to spread). We've taken a relatively stable situation and turned it into a tinderbox, at an enormous cost of lives an money. We've stretched our military so thin that they can't suppress the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan -- who ARE religious fundamentalists, and DO represent a real terrorist threat.

Don't fool yourself for a second: Everything we have done in foreign policy in the last eight years has served to make us less secure, not more so.

I'm not sure we as a nation, or the world in general, has any meaningful or consistent valuation of what a human life is worth. Certainly the Iraqi insurgent factions value their lives less than we value ours, else they wouldn't be so good at killing each other and so bad at killing Americans, and we in turn wouldn't be so bad at killing "civilians" and so good at keeping our troops alive. Yet we value a soldier's life differently than a guy killed in an industrial accident compensated by workers' comp or through a wrongful death action by a plaintiff with deep pockets, or that of an unborn fetus.

I am pretty sure that what has resulted in Iraq is not what was planned, and mostly I agree with your perspective. However, another perspective is that we CHOOSE to be stretched thin by our rules of engagement, and for sure both wars could have been much bloodier and probably shorter given much less regard for human life. Before the international decay is over, the rules of war may move back to those of the early 20th century -- lots of troops, lots of destruction, and lots of bodies.

Where are the Pakistani nukes going to end up?