Energy Self-Sufficiency

     I’m all for booming U.S. industry when it means we’re more efficient at producing goods or services than other countries, meaning cheaper goods for the consumer and higher standards of living. What I am not supportive of is what everyone seems to want: U.S. Energy Independence. The common reasoning behind this is that if we are energy independent we aren’t at the mercy of foreign countries, particularly middle eastern countries who could restrict supply and raise prices on oil causing our energy prices to soar. It is reasoned that in light of this and our continuing intervention in middle eastern countries, we want to have a stable supply of energy rather than a volatile one; thus we need to be able to sustain our energy needs from within.
     However, for exactly these reasons we should NOT want energy independence. The dependency on foreign oil is one of the few factors that holds the government back from even more intervention in the middle east. To take away the fear of gas prices rising from intervention would mean even more undeclared wars than we our already in. The government doesn’t want energy independence for the good of the average American consumer, it wants energy independence so it can intervene anywhere and anytime it pleases, without any backlash from the American people due to the inevitable consequence of rising gas prices. Energy independence will only encourage anti-competitive government policy and more conflict abroad. This is why many conservatives love the idea of energy independence; they feel their hawkish foreign policy agenda will no longer be held back and reined in by our dependence on foreign trade. We should have a foreign policy that encourages peace and commerce, not foreign intervention and trade isolationism. If the federal government really cared about volatility of gas prices it would cease its policy of intervening in every country that displeases it. It is in large part government policy of undeclared wars that makes the prices so volatile. If the federal government really cared about lowering gas prices it would stop taxing gasoline. It is true that even without American intervention the middle east is still very volatile and liable to supply disruptions. However, adding to that volatility is not good policy. Besides, if supply is disrupted it opens up the door for other countries, including our own, to step up their oil production to meet our energy needs. That is how the market works. We can’t hope to prevent supply disruptions all together, that is impossible.
     Suppose we were energy independent and one of our companies went bankrupt. That would disrupt supply wouldn’t it? Energy is no different than any other good. Why should we be seeking independence with energy but not with other goods? The answer is lies in the policy of government intervention. Supply can fluctuate for different reasons, whether we are dependent on goods from abroad or domestically. Even if we were able to keep the supply stable and the price stable due to energy independence, chances are the stable price that we would have would be higher than if we weren’t. Independence can only happen two ways: either our own domestic suppliers are able to out-compete foreign suppliers across the board, or the government grants a monopoly to domestic producers, whether explicitly through banning imports or implicitly through heavy subsidies and tariffs. Chances are the government will use the latter, using the combination of subsidies and tariffs to make the U.S. energy independent, meaning that prices will be higher than they otherwise would have been. We wouldn’t need subsidies and tariffs if we were more efficient. Therein lies the fallacy of energy independence. We shouldn’t seek to get involved in industries we are less efficient in when others can provide them cheaper. What good will it be if we end up being energy independent but it costs us more money to do so? It will only result in a lower standard of living.


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