MANY paths could lead to North American energy security, but none can be reached without a road map. A comprehensive national energy policy would provide a map. Unfortunately, no such policy exists.
Barack Obama's “all-of-the above” energy plan hardly qualifies as a map (or even as real policy), but a Tulsa-based think tank funded by an Obama supporter has some solid ideas for energy security.
Obama would find some things to like in a plan unveiled recently by the National Energy Policy Institute, endowed by George Kaiser, the Tulsa oil entrepreneur, philanthropist and Obama donor. The five-plank policy platform includes a tax on oil products and clean energy standards that, NEPI's report says, could cut oil consumption by 2.4 million barrels a day by 2035.
Often forgotten in the discussion about energy independence is that producing more energy on this continent (rather than importing it from the Mideast) focuses only the supply side. To truly boost independence, the demand side must be given equal weight. Therein lies the political rub.
NEPI's Charles Wohlforth says the policy is visionary but not “pie in the sky.” That's a tall order when you set out to increase energy independence while lowering carbon emissions. To get there requires cutting consumption of gasoline and upping the use of renewable or low-carbon fuel to make electricity. Both rely on tapping natural gas to run more vehicles and make more power.
NEPI is pushing a national goal of generating 80 percent of electricity with “clean” energy by 2035. We don't think this is possible using wind and solar power alone; adding gas and nuclear sources to the mix makes it doable.
The most controversial aspect of the proposal is a type of carbon tax euphemistically termed as an “oil security dividend.” Products made from oil such as gasoline would be taxed more to discourage consumption. An offsetting cut in the income tax would cover the added amount; consumers will get the income tax break regardless of how much fuel they buy. So the less you buy, the less of the “oil security dividend” you would pay and the more the income tax cut would benefit you.