Chimerical Energy Policies

By May 31, 2007Energy

From New Jersey writer Stephanie Cohen, pondering “energy indepence” and global politics in The New Atlantis:

Paying homage to the goal of “energy independence” has become a rite of passage for American politicians, whether left, right, or center. On the left, finding alternative sources of energy is seen both as the route to peace on earth (since most wars are supposedly wars for oil) and the only way to save the earth (since fossil fuels are destroying the planet). On the right, energy independence is seen as essential to preserving American prosperity while limiting foreign entanglements in a dangerous Middle East.

That’s the first paragraph. The last paragraph:

In confronting this predicament—or series of predicaments—we need to wonder whether the rhetoric of energy independence, with its promises of national autonomy, is a useful motivator that will make us as self-reliant for our energy needs as possible, or a utopian standard that deforms good policymaking. Like the rhetoric of democratization, words have consequences—sometimes inspiring us to noble purposes, sometimes blinding us to harsh realities. And when it comes to energy, this may be the harshest reality of all: in order to defeat our oil-rich enemies over the long-term, we may need to keep making them rich in the short term. This may be hard to swallow, but we have the misfortune not to live in a lollipop world.

‘Round here, we prefer the term “energy security.”