Energy independence: It is possible for North America, experts say

The wealth of energy options available in the United States and the rest of North America means the continent could fulfill all of its needs in the coming years, experts say.
by Jay F. Marks Modified: September 28, 2012 at 9:20 pm •  Published: October 1, 2012

Independence is prized in the United States like nowhere else on earth.

Americans have celebrated their independence every July 4 since breaking free of England's yoke in the Revolutionary War.

But the U.S., one of the most resource-rich countries in the world, has not been able to meet its own energy needs for more than half a century.

That appears to be changing, though, in light of technological advances that have jump-started a boom in domestic oil and natural gas development.

“Every president since at least Richard Nixon has at least at one time or another declared that their goal was to make the United States energy independent. I and others in the industry snickered at that. It was just impossible,” said Larry Nichols, executive chairman of Devon Energy Corp. “You could look at the energy imports coming in and know that they would go up forever. No one saw that would ever change, despite whatever noble goals were set by that long list of presidents.

“It is truly amazing to me that I stand here today and look at this continent and see that we could make ourselves energy independent. That is something I thought was impossible 20 or 30 or 40 years ago.”

Chesapeake Energy Corp. CEO Aubrey McClendon said it is in the country's best interest to become energy independent.

“Energy independence means energy and economic security for our nation. It's breaking OPEC's 40-year stranglehold on our economy. And it's finally having a foreign policy where energy needs no longer determine how we make significant strategic decisions, including when and where we choose to engage in armed conflicts,” he said.

Rayola Dougher, senior economist at the American Petroleum Institute, said some policy changes that favor producers could allow the U.S. to meet its crude oil needs by 2025, generating thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenue in the process.

“The math works,” she said. “You can do it in a dozen years.”

But to continue bolstering U.S. oil production, industry officials are seeking policy changes that would lessen regulations facing producers and open new areas for exploration.

Dougher said the industry wants “common sense” rules and regulations that protect the environment without stymieing development.

“Any kind of energy, any kind of development, is disruptive, but we can do it safely,” she said.

Others see the future differently.

“Energy independence is a lofty goal that is probably not achievable for a very long time, if ever,” clean energy consultant Alan Nogee said. “But we can make enormous progress toward energy independence, and greatly increase our energy security in the near term by increasing our energy efficiency and switching to renewable energy resources.”


by Jay F. Marks
Energy Reporter
Jay F. Marks has been covering Oklahoma news since graduating from Oklahoma State University in 1996. He worked in Sulphur and Enid before joining The Oklahoman in 2005. Marks has been covering the energy industry since 2009.
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