Oil. It’s as American as, well… oil. Our allegiance to this viscous money-maker is without bounds.
Price or accessibility is hardly even a deterrent anymore in the hunt for the next stockpile of oil reserves. We’re even willing to run a pipeline from the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada through the United States and into the Gulf Coast of Texas.
Now, that’s dedication. The only instance of a more steadfast loyalty to gas is a nitrous-oxide sniffing Dennis Hopper wheeling around his portable ether tank in Blue Velvet. Fortunately we haven’t reached that level of loyalty just yet, but we’re not far off.
America’s recent transition from a consumer to an increasing producer of domestic oil is a much more complex and convoluted scenario than any David Lynch film. As Jad Mouawad states in his article, Fuel to Burn: Now What?, “The reversal of fortune in America’s energy supplies in recent years holds the promise of abundant and cheaper fuel, and it could have profound effects on what people drive, domestic manufacturing and America’s foreign policy.”
Cheaper domestic fuel might help bolster the economy (temporarily) and reduce manufacturing and shipping costs, but also pose great environmental challenges as well. Instead of rising gas prices, conflict in the middle east, and an impending environmental disaster spurring on a mass overhaul of our energy infrastructure, the United States decided to continue to seek out conventional fossil fuel sources. We employed techniques such as hydraulic drilling and fracturing to tap into deeply buried domestic reserves, in search of crude oil, regardless of the effect on the environment and local ecosystems. But, no problem. I don’t mind methane in my water and escalating greenhouse gas emissions as long as we don’t have to pay as much at the pump, right?
Not quite. According to Mouawad, “Regardless of the environmental impact, there is no guarantee that new supplies will inevitably lead to lower gasoline prices, as proponents of unfettered domestic drilling argue. Oil is a global commodity with a price set on the global market. With rising demand around the world, particularly in emerging economies, and instability in many oil-producing countries, many analysts predict global oil prices will remain volatile-and high-for many years to come.”
America has always been a leader, setting high standards every industrialized nation strives to reach. Unfortunately, sometimes even a great country can lead in the wrong direction. Natural gas and oil exploration has driven American clean energy ventures to the brink of bankruptcy, with little to no federal assistance. According to David Crane, chief executive of NRG Energy, “Gas is wiping out every other technology in its path… if renewables had gotten a couple more years of support from the federal government, it would be smooth sailing.”
However, even with an increasingly more obstructed path to clean energy independence, “the prospects for renewables continue to grow,” with the United States transitioning into “a green-energy crazy quilt,” driven by mandates on the state and regional level. It’s terrific that renewable industries can evolve and adapt to an environment heavily reliant on fossil fuels, but they shouldn’t have to. The energy landscape is changing rapidly, both domestically and abroad, and now is the time to employ some good ol’ American ingenuity to ensure a future that will ultimately lay a new clean, green energy foundation.