One of the most remarkable things about the U.S. energy revolution is how quickly it is changing the conversation. On Wednesday, Mitt Romney released a 21-page policy paper outlining how he intends to encourage domestic energy (oil) production in order to reach partial energy independence (using only North American sources) by 2020. The Financial Times reports:
The strategy picks up on the assessments of analysts at Citigroup and Raymond James, among others, who have argued that the upturn in US production resulting from the shale oil boom makes it possible that by the end of the decade, the country could be importing crude only from Canada and Mexico.Mr Romney said his vision was for the US to be an “energy superpower, increasing our own production and partnering with our allies Canada and Mexico to achieve energy independence on this continent”.
The plan, naturally is not without its critics. In particular, many believe that 2020 is far too soon to contemplate full energy independence, while others question whether energy independence is a reasonable goal in the first place. In perhaps the best critique, Michael Levy argues in Foreign Policy that America’s resource wealth is not sufficient to achieve independence from world energy markets:
In any case, energy independence requires more than impressive arithmetic. As long as the United States is fully integrated into the world oil market, U.S. fuel prices will rise and fall along with events on the other side of the globe — say, a war with Iran. Greater domestic production will blunt the economic shock of rapidly rising prices — better to suddenly be sending massive sums to North Dakota than to Saudi Arabia — but because oil producers everywhere are relatively slow to spend their windfalls, skyrocketing prices could still knock the economy on its back.
Many of these critiques have merit, and we would be surprised if America is completely energy independent in only eight years. But if full independence isn’t quite in the offing, America does have the opportunity move a long way toward that goal in the coming years, and we will need a serious political discussion about what all this may mean for the future. The fact that Romney released this report means that this conversation has begun in earnest.