Energy independence and energy security are two of the most important objectives of the United States government. Energy independence affects America’s national security. At the present time, the United States is dependent on oil imports coming from politically unstable regions in the world, especially producers that are located in the Middle East.
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Although it is critically important for the U.S. government to achieve these goals, energy independence is not yet possible because of economic, political, and technological limitations.
At this point in time, the U.S. government has no financial capability to subsidize the migration from fossil fuel to renewable sources of energy. A significant part of the problem is the sheer amount of electrical power needed to satisfy current demand.
If Americans do not have a tremendous appetite for electricity, the energy security issue would have been an easier problem to solve. Consider for instance the report that in the 1960s only 12 percent of U.S. households had installed air-conditioning systems in their homes.
However, in the last few years, more than half of U.S. households had installed air-conditioning systems in their homes (Hakes 12). One can just imagine the energy requirements in the present time, especially if one will consider the number of condominiums, offices, and malls that were constructed in the last few decades.
Policymakers and government officials must work together in order to lower energy costs and overdependence on fossil fuel. However, there are major stakeholders in the energy game that are the stumbling blocks in the journey towards energy security. A key factor are the lobbyists who are influential people that have the clout to dictate national policies. For example, the lobbyists for auto manufacturers succeeded in maintaining the status quo for several decades.
These people were able to block efforts to increase the fuel efficiency standards of vehicles. It was only a few years ago when the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was ratified, and this law compelled automakers to boost fleet-wide gas mileage to 35 miles per gallon (Luft and Korin 153).
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The importance of strong political will was also made evident in the case of biofuels. In 2008, the United States listed at least 100 ethanol refineries that enabled the country to produce more than 7 billion gallons of ethanol per year from corn (Luft and Korin 154). At first glance, this is an impressive solution that will allow the country to move closer to the goal of energy independence. However, a closer look at the issue will reveal that corn is not the best crop for ethanol production (Luft and Korin 154).
The more cost-efficient crop is sugarcane. It is cheaper to produce ethanol from sugarcane, and it also provides higher energy content. The logical step is to import ethanol from sugarcane. It is interesting to note that lobbyists under the employ of corn producers succeeded in restricting the importation of sugar ethanol. They were able to accomplish this goal by imposing a tariff that costs as high as 50 cents per gallon. In order to understand the implications of the lobby groups, there is no tariff restriction imposed on petroleum products.
The technology needed to assure energy independence is not yet available. A significant reason for the delay is the lack of resources to pay for the research, development, and implementation of a plan to significantly reduce the use of petroleum products. Without a doubt, researchers were able to develop technologies that resulted in the creation of renewable sources of energy. However, the present infrastructure is not enough to meet current demands.
People who are serious in eliminating problems regarding overdependence on fossil fuel are dreaming of hydrogen fuel technology. It is an unbelievable source of energy because when it is consumed, hydrogen recombines with oxygen in the air to form water (Freeman 117). It goes beyond reducing emissions. It actually provides a clean source of energy. In addition, hydrogen exists in abundant form. In fact, hydrogen makes up about 75 percent of all matter. However, a technological breakthrough is needed to develop hydrogen wells.
Thus, it must be made clear that hydrogen should not be viewed as a source of energy. Hydrogen must go through a process before it can become a source of energy. Electrolysis is a way to separate hydrogen from water. The existing technology requires a significant amount of energy to separate hydrogen from water. Therefore, it is not yet practical to use hydrogen as a fuel for cars and power plants.
The good news is that research is underway to produce hydrogen without the use of electricity (Freeman 118). If there is a breakthrough in this particular study, then hydrogen fuel will become a practical solution to the energy problem.
Energy independence is not yet a realistic goal for the U.S. government. There are at least three major reasons for the delay. First, it is very expensive to fund research projects. It is also expensive to subsidize programs that will allow the full transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources. Second, there are political complications brought about by lobbyists and other interest groups. Finally, the technology needed to allow a smooth transition is not yet available.
Freeman, David. Winning Our Energy Independence. UT: Gibbs Smith Publishing, 2007. Print.
Hakes, Jay. A Declaration of Energy Independence. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. Print.
Luft, Gal and Anne Korin. Energy Security Challenges for the 21st Century.