North American Energy Independence: Who Cares?

A blog about business and economics.
Aug. 23 2012 6:07 PM

North American Energy Independence: Who Cares?

The nonsense goal of "energy independence" used to dominate the American political debate, and today with the rollout of his new energy policy Mitt Romney has tweaked it to a new level of nonsense in which the policy goal is "North American energy independence."

What's the difference? Well the difference is that the United States doesn't contain enough oil to meet our energy needs, so "energy independence" necessarily entails heavy reliance on renewables or nuclear both of which are low in greenhouse gas emissions. But Canada has lots of oil. So by tweaking the goal, you get to turn what was supposed to be a nonsense rhetorical wrapper for climate change policy into a nonsense rhetorical wrapper for promotion of oil and gas drilling.

Advertisement

But however you feel about Canada, nothing changes the fact that oil is a globally traded commodity. Even if we could fully supply ourselves with Mexican, American, and Canadian oil a huge war in the Persian Gulf would still create a huge spike in gasoline prices unless we could somehow prevent the export of North American oil to Europe and Asia. But unless you're planning to actually isolate North America from worldwide commodity markets, you're not "independent" of anything.

The actual issue at hand is climate change—should we limit CO2 emissions and subsidize research and deployment of clean technology, or should we just not worry about it and hope all the scientists are mistaken?

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 6:23 PM Bryan Cranston Reenacts Baseball’s Best Moments to Promote the Upcoming Postseason
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.