U.S. surprisingly close to energy independence

Sarah Gardner Feb 7, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: You could try, but there probably aren’t many issues on which you can draw a straight line from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama.

But then you get to energy independence. It’s been a goal of this country and every president since Nixon, since the Arab oil embargos of the ’70s. Looks like we’re moving closer to it.

The folks at Bloomberg crunched the latest numbers from the government. The U.S. is now 81 percent energy self-sufficient. We’re talking energy for both transportation and electricity, just to be clear.

Sarah Gardner reports from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk it’s progress — not a panacea, though.

Sarah Gardner: If the U.S. is moving closer to energy independence,  it’s thanks, in no small part, to the boom in shale oil and natural gas. In fact, last year we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years. Experts say that good news for national security, jobs, and the trade deficit.  It also puts America on track to be world energy’s Big Kahuna.

Jamie Webster is senior manager at PFC Energy.

Jamie Webster: Because of the boom, largely in natural gas but a bit in oil as well, by the time you get to 2020, we will actually be above Saudi Arabia, we will be above Russia, and we will be the number one producer on a country by country basis.

But Daniel Yergin says that won’t totally protect us. He’s author of “The Quest: Energy, Security and the Re-Making of the Modern World.” Yergin says when it comes to energy, we’re all connected.

Daniel Yergin: We’re still going to be part of a global oil market where there’s one price and if something happens in the Persian Gulf, something happens with Iran or some other scenario and it affects supplies and the price of oil, you’ll feel that everywhere including the United States.

Critics say all this domestic production of fossil fuels has its downsides, like environmental risk. But natural gas prices are now so cheap, there’s less incentive to invest in cleaner energy, like solar and wind.

I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

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