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Donald F. Boesch
President, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Donald F. Boesch

Donald F. Boesch, an oceanographer, is president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and Vice Chancellor for Environmental Sustainability for the University System of Maryland. ALL POSTS

Get off oil

Q: What does it mean for a nation to be energy independent? Is it realistic and if so how should that be achieved?

Of course, total energy independence cannot be fully achieved, but there are many good reasons (security of energy supplies and costs to the economy among them) to reduce the U.S. dependence on imported oil. Imports comprise over 57 percent of our consumption of liquid petroleum (total about 7 billion barrels per year), but a very small proportion of the natural gas and virtually none of the coal consumption.

Consequently, foreign dependence is an oil problem, and principally for transportation. It is simply impossible to replace imported oil with domestically produced oil, much less to do this in the next few decades. Lessening dependence will require fuel conservation, renewable fuels, greater use of mass transit, and switching to natural gas or electricity-powered transportation. As an example, according to the Washington Post, the fuel efficiency standards just mandated would reduce consumption by half a billion barrels per year, or one-eighth of the amount of oil currently imported, by 2020 and also significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The estimated undiscovered, economically recoverable oil in the regions of the outer continental shelf just proposed for exploration and development is estimated to be between 39 and 63 billion barrels. This would contribute less than nine years' supply at current consumption rates--the area off the Mid-Atlantic coast, just a few weeks' supply. While expansion of offshore development could only make a marginal contribution to reducing dependence on foreign oil, it would also expand supplies of natural gas, an important, less carbon-intense transitional energy source. Moving quickly toward transportation not powered by liquid petroleum is thus needed to reduce energy dependence as well as to limit the extent of global warming.

Speaking of global warming, I was disappointed at the paucity of coverage in the Post of the recent report of the U.K. Parliament that found no evidence to support charges that the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit or its director had tampered with data or perverted the peer review process to exaggerate the threat of global warming. The report noted that nothing in the more than 1,000 stolen e-mails or resulting controversy challenged the scientific consensus that "global warming is happening and that it is induced by human activity." As I pointed earlier out, the Post prominently reported "missteps" by scientists on its front page, but ran just a brief digest summary that stressed the Parliament's criticism of the University for withholding information rather than the more essential vindication that is the main finding of the report. That's the real news and it deserves to be reported prominently by the newspaper of record of our nation's capital.

By Donald F. Boesch  |  April 1, 2010; 3:34 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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The Damage Bush and the GOP did to our Economy and National Security will continue to haunt us for years to come. So long as we keep moving in the right direction to become Economic and Energy Independent, Stop sending money to the Middle East for Oil that also funds terrorists, and move away from Coal and the Water polluting Livestock industry; our Water, Energy, National and Economic Security will be stronger in the long run.

According to the EIA, The United States uses 17 Million Barrels of Oil/day, produces 5.1 million barrels Oil/day domestically, and imports 12.4 million barrels Oil/day (over 60 percent), of which 6 Million Barrels Oil/day come from the Middle East (OPEC).

We should immediately establish an Oil Import Tax to discourage importing gas from the Middle East and funding terrorist organizations. Income from the Tax should be used to fund subsidies for domestic non-food-crop based alternative fuels and renewable energy industries, and the higher gas prices will encourage domestic drilling, state revenue sharing and energy efficiency in all oil use. This will also create Jobs across political and ideological partisan lines. Would you pay an extra 25~50 cents/gallon to create USA Jobs and Industries and save the lives of our Troops in the Middle East?

Posted by: liveride | April 6, 2010 1:07 AM
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Posted by: fabco | April 5, 2010 1:12 PM
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"Speaking of global warming, I was disappointed at the paucity of coverage in the Post of the recent report of the U.K. Parliament....That's the real news and it deserves to be reported prominently by the newspaper of record of our nation's capital."

Amen. By publishing factually inaccurate and harmful nonnsense from people like George Will, the Post has abdicated any role as a leading national newspaper when it comes to climate change.

Posted by: davidscott1 | April 4, 2010 9:00 PM
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The problem isn't the lack of engineers with a viable alternative, it's the lack of leadership throughout the country. Whether we're talking education, jobs, religion, war, politics, policy, tariffs, interest rates, treaties you name it there's a group with a vested interest promoting Arab/OPEC oil. That there's even a question of alternative energy after two wars, an embargo, oil spills, air and land pollution, budget deficits and bankruptcies is not surprising. See above: lack of education and politics. It's easy to continue blaming Exxon who parades around as an alternative energy advocate the way cigarette companies like the UST claim they're all for a cancer free population in their ads, but they're the backstop for pols around the globe the way Sarah Palin is for oil. Don't kid yourself into thinking alternative energy is a bust for the economy. It's the future.

Posted by: KraftPaper | April 4, 2010 7:56 AM
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It will take decades, maybe a century to develop a viable fusion, thorium, or hybrid nuclear reactor. When we do it will be the end of fossil fuels with unlimited electric generation and changing our motor fleet to hydrogen/electric. The country that develops a fusion power source will become the world's new oil baron.

Posted by: jameschirico | April 4, 2010 3:08 AM
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Get off immigration.

We will make all sorts of noise about alternative energy source and reducing oil use. By the middle of the century, our per capita oil use will be down by ten percent but our population will be fifty percent higher, so we will be using forty percent more oil.

Many years ago I was involved in all of this but I came to realize how silly it all is when you have a government that insists on inviting the rest of the world to live in America. Its all nonsense.

Posted by: hipshot | April 3, 2010 9:59 AM
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Get off immigration.

Posted by: hipshot | April 3, 2010 9:43 AM
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