Updated: Energy Independence Isolationism

Economy,Energy,Environmentalism & Animal Rights,Free Markets


About “oil independence,” I wrote the following in September of last year:

“I can never understand the protectionist, bellyaching about oil independence. Has anyone heard of trade? Perhaps if we traded more with Iran, instead of boycotting its wares, Iranians would be less belligerent. Trade is the best antidote to war. Think clearly: Iran has to sell its oil. That’s its livelihood. We need to buy it. Voila! Trade! Oil independence is a foolish leftist notion. Do I grow carrots in my backyard so as to become less dependent on Costco? Why would I? Costco needs to sell its fabulous produce; I want to buy it. Case closed.”

About the fallacy and fundamental dishonesty of “energy independence,” Bill Anderson writes this:

“There is something reassuring about the concept of ‘energy independence,’ but the term is much more dishonest than one might think. First, and most important, the United States is part of a world economy, and it is not the case that because one product is produced within the borders of this country the United States is “independent” of what happens elsewhere in the world. Indeed, many people who call for “energy independence” have no problem in calling for U.S. troops to be sent around the world for military operations because they insist that global issues are our issues, too. (My comments are not an endorsement of such policies, but rather an attempt to point out that people who call for energy independence need to be consistent in their thinking.)

Second, one must remember that trade itself is by nature a peaceful activity, spurred on by mutual benefits to all parties involved. It is in Americans’ interest to trade with all nations, including those in the Middle East. Before the Gulf War of 1991, the United States was trading peacefully with Iraq and other nations of the region. The turmoil in Iraq-U.S. relations was more the result of U.S. policies than anything hatched by the late Saddam Hussein, as cruel and dictatorial a person as he was. Furthermore, even if this country could theoretically produce all necessary fuel domestically, the cost to taxpayers and consumers would be extremely high and would greatly lower Americans’ standard of living and increase the rate of poverty here.

Energy ‘independence’ is a foolish term that has no bearing in reality. Such a regime of “independence” would require government to expand its powers of taxation and regulation far beyond where those powers operate today, and Americans would be made substantially poorer for the effort.

There is another way. The United States could return to being a peaceful trading partner with countries of the world, no matter what the ideology of their governments. In the long run, there would be no call for ‘energy independence,’ because trade obviously would be the better and wiser route to take.”

If you haven’t yet, do read “The Goods On Gas.”

Update (June 22): COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE. When I see my frugal, time-deprived husband change the oil in his car, I begin talking about comparative advantage. Yes, in addition to the highly specialized work he does, the man is more than able to do most things around the house. However, how viable is that? The time he devotes to the oil change could have been better utilized to do more lucrative work. Or to play the guitar, also the second greatest love of his life. (We hope)

The idea of trade is that everyone does what he is best and most efficient at, and exchanges the products of that labor for stuff others do better and cheaper. To aim for self-sufficiency is to aim for bankruptcy. The Saudis are good at getting oil out of the ground. Their installations showcase magnificent high-tech equipment. Thanks to the environmental ideologues the US is run—and overrun—by, we’ve fallen by the way. So now we want to stop trading?

According to CNN:
“America now uses nearly 21 million barrels of oil a day, a quarter of total world consumption. It imports nearly 60 percent of it. Domestic production has been falling for 35 years.”

Importing what we need is good. But halting production for political reasons is not.

Speaking of the best of technology: Did anyone see the CNN and interviews with Anadarko Petroleum? If only the f-ck-faces in Congress left it up to companies like this and their teams of geologists and engineers, we’d have oodles of gas in no time.

On one of their many rigs drilling goes on thirty-three thousand feet–six miles down. On the day the CNN correspondent visited, they were “down 11,000 feet, two miles below the ship.” That’s astonishing.

Anadarko Petroleum has

“Remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, [that] reveal what is happening on the sea floor. Global positioning systems and thrusters underneath the ship keep it in place over the wellhead. Computerized lifts pull pipe 270 feet at a time with nothing more than the flick of a wrist.”
“The ship and crew cost nearly $300,000 a day, each deep water site [is] a huge gamble, hundreds of millions for what could be a dry hole.”

These vilified companies are incredible. Read the transcripts here for more about the wherewithal of one of our oil companies. If only the putrid politicians and their gangrenous pals would let the likes of Anadarko Petroleum do what they do best. Take care of business.

On the other hand, if I were being called every other day to face the congressional cockroaches, so as to satisfy the pitchfork-wielding folks, I’d do an Atlas Shrugged. Liquidate, sell, get out of the business.

6 thoughts on “Updated: Energy Independence Isolationism

  1. Andrew T.

    Ah, the old “energy independence”. One of those phrases like “strong national defense” or “celebrate diversity” or “uphold the rule of law” or “9/11 changed everything” or “we need to punish oil CEOs”. Basically, tired lines that don’t have a great deal of precise meaning except in the way that politicians rhetorically use them to get re-elected. They’re meaningless and require a statist tyranny, but we don’t have the guts to be in opposition since it makes you sound backwards and grouchy.

  2. Myron Pauli

    AMEN to your column. It basically said what I was trying to point out last week about the fallacy of “energy independence”.

    Hannibal the Cannibal would point out that most humans are dependent on OTHER animal species and plants for our food – duhh – shouldn’t mankind be self-sufficient?

    {{ P.S. Walter Williams has a wonderful column today on “Airport Tyranny” at WND:


    Remember that in “Casablanca”, Rick, Ilsa, and Victor showed up at the airport 10 minutes before flying in pro-Nazi Vichy-France! Now we have Bush-Scalia-Yoo “freedom” instead. }}

  3. AnIdea

    The good news is McCain is offering $300 Million to any company that comes up with a better battery. The bad news: It’s not his money.

    Why can’t these politicians just let the market work itself out? They’re making a bad situation worse.

    BTW. John McCain is as much a “fiscal conservative” as I am a Roman Legionnaire. Then again, with him as president we may all become Legionnaires…

  4. Steve

    I’m not really a prude, but… did you really say “f-ck face”? I’ve searched for something to indicate you were quoting someone else, but I’m boggled. Not that libertarian intellectual goddesses can’t swear like sailors, but this has me short-circuiting. And no, I can’t explain why it matters, beyond an appeal to aesthetics.

    [What else would you call them? I have run out of adjectival niceties. Maybe you have some; I don’t. But then I’ve been in the trenches for over a decade, and have been pretty polite so far. Have they returned the courtesy? There is a time and place for everything. Where’s that written? The Hebrew Bible me thinks.—IM]

  5. Jack

    I think I’ve figured out why neocons like the idea of “energy independence”. They don’t like the constraints that apply to both parties in a peaceful exchange of goods. They would rather not have to buy the product so that they can deal with the seller in the manner of their choosing without said constraints.

    But I think they fail to consider that it’s a two-way street. If the arrangement is broken then the seller no longer has to please the consumer either.

  6. Steve

    Ilana, touche. No need to pull punches. They are f-ck faces. Libertarian small-g goddess-hood intact. Now, I just have more than your intellect by which to be intimidated. My use of the f bomb tends to be more mundane and unimaginative, and almost universally traffic-related. Props!

    [It’s the first time I’ve done this, but I stand by it. Thanks for feeling my pain.–IM ]

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