Not energy independent, yet

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Fossil fuel boosters love to say that energy independence is nearly a reality, thanks to a massive expansion of fracking. As often as not, the claim is used to justify some attack on the need for alternative energy sources. It’s a compelling claim, both because good news is hard to come by, and because fuel prices haven’t yet rebounded from a sharp decline in late 2014. But it’s 100%, categorically false.A fresh report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), part of the Department of Energy, paints a far less rosy picture. U.S. oil production declined in 2016. Imports are up, primarily from Nigeria, Iraq and other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Worse, our dependence on imported oil is projected to continue growing in 2017.Meanwhile, in a separate report, federal analysts announced that oil and natural gas firms in Russia are doubling down on investments in new wells, helping “push production to record post-Soviet levels.” At the same time, thousands of U.S. workers in the oil and gas sector have lost their jobs.In truth, when it comes to energy security, there is good news to be found, but not at the bottom of a well. The real U.S. energy boom is happening among renewables. EIA data show that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are at their lowest since 1991, driven by a combination of factors, including the rapid growth of domestically produced renewable energy, especially wind and biofuels.In particular, ethanol production continues to grow year-after-year, thanks to rising efficiency by U.S. farmers who are producing record crops on less land than was cultivated in previous decades. As an added bonus, that rise in efficiency has also contributed to the “longest stretch of falling food prices in more than 50 years,” according to the Wall Street Journal, discrediting the naysayers who argued that food and biofuel production would compete rather than complement one another, as the numbers prove.Biofuels like ethanol provide a vital, low-cost alternative to imported energy, and they remain the single most effective tool for protecting consumers against the next spike in oil prices. Thanks to the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires fuel refiners to offer a growing share of renewable options, estimates show that drivers saved $.50 to $1.50 per gallon when crude was trading for over $110 per barrel just a few years ago. Even at today’s prices, ethanol blends – from the standard 10 percent blend to the more affordable E15 and E85 – all save drivers money at the pump.Savings at the pump are important, because they drive consumer behavior and provide the real momentum for U.S. adoption of domestic, renewable energy. As a result, biofuels displaced 527 million barrels of oil in 2015 alone. Environmental and economic benefits aside, that’s the kind of progress we need to achieve real and lasting energy security.OPEC recently announced an agreement to cut oil production and drive prices back up. A meeting is scheduled for November to hammer out the details, but nearly every analyst agrees that oil prices are poised to climb.U.S. consumers and, by extension, U.S. diplomats, will continue to be the target of this kind of manipulation until we stop relying on oil for nearly all our liquid fuel needs. It’s time to get serious about energy security by enforcing the strongest possible renewable fuel targets and accelerating the deployment of cleaner, homegrown options at the pump.last_img