From the folks who brought us Newt Gingrich’s promise to deliver $2-a-gallon gas if we just let him play president for a while — never mind how, just trust him — comes now from the grownup in the room, the actual candidate for president, an energy policy for the country that is equally grounded in realism. If we let him be president for a while, says Mitt Romney, he will deliver energy independence for America in seven years. Never mind how. All we have to do is trust him and the oil companies.
[Is there really any point in applying things such as logic and objective facts to the phantasmagorical elocutions of today’s American politicians? Not if we expect to have any impact on politics, only money does that. However, it might be useful in our personal deliberations about exactly when to bail out and head for the mountain sanctuary.]
What does energy independence mean? Until now, the oil companies have been smart enough to avoid defining it when they talk about it. Sometimes it means just reducing our reliance on “unreliable” or “unstable” countries, always excluding Canada and Mexico, who for this purpose only are not foreign countries. Romney’s plan promises “North American” energy independence by 2020. Similarly, the oil companies never used to talk about when we might achieve it. Or how. To them it has been just something we might move toward, or have within reach, if only oil companies were unregulated, untaxed, and Obama wasn’t president. Just a dream we have.
All this talk of energy independence, for whomever, brings tears to the eyes of those who still believe in mathematics (as opposed to, oh, I don’t know, intelligent estimating?). We use 20 million barrels of oil a day. We import 9 million of those barrels. Yes, that’s down from 12 mbpd a few years ago, primarily because of the recession and improved efficiency. That decline is not continuing, so energy independence requires producing 9 mbpd more than we are now.
How? Easy, says Romney. We’ll drill everywhere; off the Atlantic coast, in the Arctic, in the Gulf of Mexico, on (presumably any and all) federal lands. Then we take Canada’s tar-sands oil by building a new pipeline to Texas whose product is intended primarily for export. And we take all of Mexico’s surplus oil. This is a country whose oil production peaked in 2008, whose total oil production — not for export, total — is somewhere south of 3 mgpd, and which is expected to become an oil importer by 2020. The very year of Romney’s independence day.
This is another verse of Sarah Palin’s vacuous theme song, “drill, baby, drill.” Buying into it requires assuming that lakes of untapped oil lie — these are Romney’s actual words — “right underneath our feet” — and would have made life easy by now if only Obama were not president. Or something. Something has somehow prevented all the oil companies of the world from poking a stick into these vast reserves and letting the gushers that ensue solve all our problems.
Right now the Big Oil Tabernacle Choir is singing lustily about the Bakken oil boom in North Dakota and the Marcellus natural-gas miracle in Pennsylvania, et al. As I have written elsewhere here, it ain’t a boom [US Oil Boom Busted] and it ain’t a miracle [New York Times Explodes Natural-Gas Bubble].
A former director of the Energy Information Administration, Jay Hakes, has written a book about the prospects for energy independence. His conclusion (according to Politico): there is no economically feasible way the United States can ever attain zero oil imports.
Whether the great American electorate goes skipping down the yellow brick road with Romney, Ryan and company remains to be seen, and is of diminishing interest. The real question is: how’s your sanctuary coming, and when you gonna bail?