Independence Day 2013: How Close Are We to Energy Independence?
Last week, our country took special time to honor all of the men and women who have made the last 237 years of independence and freedom possible in the United States. Independence can be defined in regard to many different policies and aspects of American life. But have you ever thought about energy independence? Being a group of energy enthusiasts, we are taking this year’s holiday to discuss the meaning and benefits of energy independence in the U.S.
What is Energy Independence?
Energy independence is the idea that as a country, we can wean ourselves off of the need to purchase any type of foreign fuel - mainly oil and gas. Instead, the country would be able to completely support its own energy needs with domestically produced and owned sources of fuel. Last year, the United States imported 40 percent of its total oil from international sources, which has dropped from 60 percent in 2005. As technology has developed, we have increased our ability to extract energy resources domestically and make new sources of energy more efficient and affordable.
The Benefits of Energy Independence
Our dependence on energy trade with foreign countries such as those in the Middle East and West Africa has left the United States vulnerable and less flexible in foreign policy decisions. Remember the Oil Embargo of 1973? The U.S. experienced six months of incredibly expensive gas prices and the longest gas station lines you could ever imagine.
Economically, energy independence provides security and stability in the price and supply of energy. Politically, it decreases vulnerability to decision-making out of fear that other states with which we trade oil or gas could disagree and raise prices as a result. Environmentally, it gives us the ability to internalize the environmental costs associated with transporting fuel, burning fuels that release carbon dioxide, drilling deep holes into our earth, and polluting our land and water. Energy independence means that in a world with an exponentially growing population fueled mostly by non-renewable resources, we can better plan for future generations by investing in renewable and clean sources of energy. After all, if we don’t protect our environment, what kind of world are we creating for the future? Visit Energy Independence Now to learn more.
Types of Energy Independence in the United States
- Oil is the main source of our energy dependence, as we purchase petroleum to fuel our car-obsessed nation. However, we have recently found resources to drill offshore domestically. Environmentally, oil is one of the most harmful forms of energy today as it releases carbon dioxide, pollutes aquatic environments, and contributes to many respiratory ailments associated with smog and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
- Coal continues to be mined for the production of electricity in the U.S., but it is also associated with many negative environmental effects such as acidic water, smog, and forest destruction in mountaintop removal. Furthermore, the burning of coal currently contributes to 10 percent of total methane emissions and a third of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. Read up here for more info in the costs of coal.
- Shale Gas has been an increasingly popular form of natural gas in the U.S., produced by the hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling process. Many people are currently torn between the negative environmental effects of this process and the recent jobs it has created.
- Wind along the coastal and mountainous areas of the United States has provided us with plenty of new opportunities to establish wind farms while also decreasing our carbon dioxide emissions.
- Solar power is our planet's ultimate source of energy. We have developed technology to convert sunlight to electricity both directly and indirectly. Economically, solar power can pay off in less than one generation.
- Hydropower is produced from the energy created from running or falling water. Most hydropower comes from large river dams, which can also lead to negative environmental effects.
- Nuclear power uses the nuclear decay process to generate heat and electricity. Although it does not contribute to carbon emissions, nuclear waste and the occurrence of explosion accidents has hushed the U.S. conversation on nuclear energy. Nuclear power fuels 13.5 percent of the world’s total total electricity supply today.
- Biofuel is produced from living plants such as vegetable oil, ethanol, and wood. The European Union currently accounts for more than half of the world’s biofuel production.
How does this relate to Energy Efficiency?
Once we can domestically produce all of our energy sources, we will have significantly cut back on both costs and emissions associated with transportation of international fuel. Consuming any product from a more local source increases efficiency through less carbon-emitting transportation. By investing in cleaner forms of domestic energy, we can create less environmental damage and greenhouse gases for future generations to clean up. Additionally, we won’t have to worry about renewable fuels running out!
By next year, the U.S. will be able to domestically produce 70 percent of its oil. If trends continue, we will be able to supply all of our own energy by 2030. But is domestic production of oil and gas enough? We know these resources won’t last forever, but are they the best option for our country today? In the spirit of Independence Day, take some time to think about where your energy comes from, the process it has taken to get here, and who it’s helping and hurting.
Although transitioning to domestic and renewable forms of energy can lead to less waste, even the cleanest forms of energy today are neither completely efficient nor completely safe for the environment. As long as we’re living on this finite planet, we must learn to cut back on our energy use overall. Using energy more efficiently is what our team at WegoWise is all about! To become more efficient with your energy use today, let WegoWise analyze your building utilities. Whether you want to measure Water, Electricity, Gas, or Oil, Wego has got you covered.