Human Events: Gary Bauer: A Roadmap to Energy Freedom

Posted on June 28, 2010

It is sad and disingenuous for liberals to suggest that America's energy troubles would disappear if only we rid ourselves of the evil oil companies. It is an inconvenient truth that we will be dependent on oil-based energy for the foreseeable future. And we can't pretend, as the environmentalists seem to, that enacting harsh oil consumption taxes without proposing viable alternatives will somehow solve our energy problems.   

Conservatives have led the way in embracing alternative forms of energy--those that, unlike oil, don’t involve the transfer of immense amounts of wealth and capital to countries that hate us. One of the most promising solutions entails transforming our mostly oil-based transportation sector into one run on electricity.  

Most Americans outside of the Obama administration recognize that an enemy fueled by radical Islam is the foremost national security threat we face. Less appreciated is a threat of our own making-our reliance on one energy source. 

It's hard to over-state the impact of America's dependence on oil. Americans consume 20 million barrels of oil each day. Soaring oil prices over the last few years have cost the average American family an extra $2,000 a year, and contributed to our current economic slowdown. 

The majority of our oil is imported from abroad, often from countries whose governments are actively working to do us harm. In many cases our reliance on oil forces us to accommodate unfriendly regimes, which puts us and our allies at risk. We are literally sending our money to people who hate us.

The fact is that the global oil supply is extremely vulnerable.  A majority of the world’s oil supplies must pass through one of six strategically vital passageways like the Strait of Hormuz that runs between Iran and Qatar. If even one of these channels were to close, it would have a devastating effect on the global price of oil, on our economy and on every American.

Given how vulnerable our reliance on foreign sources of oil makes us, it is clear we must allow more shallow water oil drilling and drilling in areas like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge-places in which the environmentalist left has limited our ability to drill.   

But beyond oil, we must invest in alternatives like natural gas, clean coal and nuclear energy. These are all sources we have in abundance.  

We produce most of our own natural gas, and new technologies allow for natural gas drilling in shale fields in places like Texas and Montana. And we have the world's largest coal reserves, which generate about half of our electricity.

America should also follow the lead of France (that was hard to write!) in its use of nuclear power, which provides the French with 80 percent of their electricity needs.  

Utilizing all these energy sources would allow us to reduce our dependence on oil and help produce enough electricity to fuel our cars and small trucks. The transportation sector accounts for more than 70 percent of the oil consumed in the U.S. The vast majority of our cars and light trucks depend on oil-based fuel for their energy.  

Last month, Senators Byron Dorgan and Lamar Alexander introduced legislation that aims to put America's fleet of cars and light trucks on the road to greater electrification, thus allowing us to utilize a wide range of domestic sources-including natural gas, coal and nuclear power. The proposal makes a lot of sense to me as a conservative.  

The Electric Vehicle Deployment Act of 2010 proposes the selection of cities and metro areas as electrification “deployment communities.”These communities would be offered tax incentives so that all the elements of an electrified transport system would be deployed at once, including a highly integrated system of batteries, vehicles, generation, transmission and charging.

Electrification would be a job creator in a new and growing industry. It would reduce the trade deficit as we import less oil, and expand household income as families spend less on energy for transportation. Vehicles that run on electricity are also cleaner, operate more quietly and accelerate more quickly than internal combustion engine vehicles.  

Most importantly, greater electrification would insulate the U.S. from oil shocks arising from unstable countries and prevent oil-wealthy foreign dictators who fund terrorism from lining their pockets with our hard-earned money.  

Some conservatives might wince at the prospect of the increased government spending necessary for such a project. But the economic cost of continuing with the status quo of oil dependence is worse. Americans spent nearly $600 billion on oil just in 2008, the last year for which we have data. And this doesn't even account for the national security costs of our dependence on oil.  

The Left's solution to America's dependence on oil is to enact “cap-and-tax” legislation based on the dubious science of man-made global warming. If it becomes law, energy prices would skyrocket for every American. Even the Obama administration concedes that cap-and-trade would cost the average American household $1,761 a year (a figure that’s probably low).   

President Obama is now shamelessly exploiting the Gulf oil leak to push cap-and-trade. But there's a better response, and the electrification of our transportation sector is an important part of it.