Good Question

Two years ago, I was proud to produce a TV show called Six Degrees, which many of you claimed to enjoy. I was also proud to partner with The American Petroleum Institute, who helped me fund the project. To show my appreciation, I sat down between takes with some people from the energy industry and asked them a few questions about our newfound energy independence. Those conversations became a web series called Good Question, and they’ve been on my mind here of late, along with the incredible speed with which things can change. One minute, America was a net exporter of oil and natural gas. The next minute, we’re back to buying oil from despots and sheiks, with gas prices at an all-time high.

Honest question – Why would we allow energy independence to slip through our fingers? I’m old enough to remember the gas lines in the early seventies, and the terrible realization that we were utterly dependent on foreign oil. And I’m young enough to remember the elation at learning we possessed enough reserves in THIS country to provide us with enough affordable energy for the next three centuries.

Two years ago, I took a lot of grief for my association with API from people who believed that oil and natural gas posed an existential threat to the future of our planet. I didn’t (and don’t) disagree that cleaner forms of energy must be developed. But I reminded my detractors that ALL forms of alternative energy currently rely upon fossil fuels, and that NO industry invests more in developing those alternatives than the petroleum industry. It was therefore misguided, in my opinion, to make organizations like API the enemy of cleaner alternatives. I also argued that our reliance on fossil fuels went far beyond the need for affordable gasoline and included myriad critical products that could not exist without petroleum – including everything from the clothes we wear to the plastics we rely on to countless medical devices we need – not to mention the iPhones and laptops we were using to facilitate the argument. Mostly though, I argued that it was intellectually dishonest to maintain that importing foreign oil was “better for the environment,” than extracting it from the ground beneath us. It’s not a question of whether the pursuit of cleaner alternatives is critical, (it is,) or whether we still rely on oil and natural gas today, (we do.) The only question is where we should get it. Here, or somewhere else.

So, I have to ask – again – what excuse can possibly justify the decision to important a critical resource we desperately need, when we possess that same resource in abundance, along with the technology to extract it? Energy is a global market, obviously, and I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t participate in that market, if it’s in our interest to do so. But Venezuela? The mid-East? Russia? What possible reason can justify the decision to forego our energy independence?

Watch this short video, and keep in mind…it’s barely two years old. Also, tell me if you’d like to hear more from my favorite economic historian – Dan Yergin. His many books – especially The Prize, and The Quest – should be required reading by anyone who has ever used fossil fuels. I’d love to check back with Dan and get his take on current events.

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