Monday, August 6, 2012

Breaking Our Dependence on Middle East Oil

Even a few years back, a headline like this would have just been wishful thinking. There’s been talk since at least the OPEC Oil Crisis of 1973 about freeing America from its addiction to foreign fossil fuels. But it hasn’t been an issue that any administration – including the current one – has been willing to fully dedicate itself to. The funny thing is, the problem of curbing our foreign oil consumption may no longer be merely a political issue with a political solution. With the ongoing development of technologies such as hydraulic fracturing, deepwater oil drilling, natural gas, and even photovoltaic energy fuel cells, our automotive and trucking industries – and all other such industries dependent on exports from the Persian Gulf and the like – may very well have a strategy that allows us to eliminate our dependency on foreign oil altogether. Politics may have very little to do with it any longer.

Examples abound of oil deposits that are to be found nowhere near the volatile Middle East. The Bakken Shale Oil Deposit in North Dakota is perhaps the most obvious example of a new American oil renaissance. Since the large-scale discovery of shale oil in North Dakota, the state’s unemployment rate has dropped to 5%, the smallest in the nation. In fact, there’s an ongoing and desperate need for new jobs in the small towns dotting the western North Dakotan plains. The counter-workers at a local McDonald’s in the heart of shale oil country work are paid $20/hour; the counter itself is maintained 24 hours/day.

This is only the most obvious, domestic solution to foreign oil dependency. Huge offshore oil fields have been discovered not only in the Gulf of Mexico, but off the Brazilian coastline as well. With companies already in a much-contested bidding war for these resources, it seems likely that the stakes are high and the profits will indeed be profitable. Likewise, the tar sands of Alberta, Canada are another strong source of “local” oil that will undermine Arab efforts at cornering the oil market. Finally, the proliferation of natural gas and bio-fuels (recently legislation has been passed throughout North America that makes natural gas a viable and regulated source of energy for cars and trucks), as well as the slow but steady development of photovoltaic fuel cells attest to an ultimate break from our long-time dependency.

Estimates indicate that the US will halve its reliance on Middle East oil by as early as 2025. If the new energy policies bear full fruit, that 2025 number can be expected to become reduced to almost 0% by 2035. In terms of history, that’s basically just around the corner from today’s times. Let’s hope that cheaper fuel prices come as a result!

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