Ending foreign oil dependence won't solve all our energy woes, says Michael Levi

Kurdish engineers and other employees work at the Tawke oil field near the town of Zacho on May 31, 2009 in Dohuk province about 250 miles north of Baghdad, Iraq.

There’s more to energy policy than fracking or oil or wind and solar. There’s also what happens out in the real world. Michael Levi at the Council on Foreign Relations takes the broad view in his new book, “The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America’s Future.”

The theoretical debates we have about the energy of the future -- and what we’re willing to risk to make a new industry work -- are very real in the heartland.

“It’s extraordinary how tough a lot of folks have it,” says Levi. “You look for example at Ohio where people are dairy farmers. That is not a thriving industry right now. People are struggling, people have debts and they’re looking for a way out.”

In Ohio, some families have looked to fracking as that way out -- albeit tentatively.

“I spent time with couples that were in disagreement over what they should do with their own property, whether they should lease it to natural gas companies,” he says.

The U.S. has made great strides in diversifying its energy use away from foreign oil.

“I think there’s a reasonable chance we’ll see a day when American presidents don’t say ‘we need to end our dependence on foreign oil’,” says Levi.

But he says that's no panacea.

“What we’ll find out at that point is, the things we thought that would deliver, cheap gas for our cars and trucks, protection from events in the Middle East -- none of that would have happened."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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