3 Reasons Why McCain’s Plan to Reduce Foreign Oil Dependence is Completely Bogus
Who Is Joe the Plumber?
If you watched last night’s debate, you heard the question: What will you do in your first term to reduce our dependence on foreign oil?
[social_buttons] Did either candidate actually answer the question? Not really. But here’s why McCain’s answer of offshore-drilling-nuclear-power-wind-solar-geothermal-natural-gas is completely bogus:
1. Offshore drilling won’t do anything for 10 years. And then it still won’t do anything.
Even the Department of Energy says oil from those areas won’t arrive anytime soon. It projected last year that with the ban in place until 2012, new drilling would produce only 7% more oil in 2030, and the impact on oil prices would be “insignificant.”
Despite McCain’s adamant endorsement of offshore drilling as a solution, no new oil would be produced from new wells anytime soon. Even if we started drilling tomorrow, it would have zero effect on gas prices for the next 10 years, and then after that still probably wouldn’t affect them.
The proposal that offshore drilling is somehow a solution to foreign oil dependence is such crap, I’m almost convinced we should start drilling everywhere so we can prove definitively how little difference it’s going to make. Hell, let’s drill in ANWR too while we’re at it and maybe we can drop the price of a barrel of oil a few cents by 2025.
At least then we can prove how stupid even the Department of Energy thinks this entire proposition is:
Drilling in ANWR makes perfect sense, since it would supply 876,000 barrels of oil per day to a country that consumes 20,687,000 barrels of oil per day. To put that in perspective, 876,000 barrels is about 1 hour worth of oil, or over the course of a year amounts to about 15 days of US oil consumption.
2. Nuclear power will not do anything to solve our dependence on foreign oil.
The first new nuclear power plant would not be finished until well after John McCain’s (God forbid) second term as president. Even if we started building new nukes tomorrow, the only way they could replace the 12,036,000 barrels/day of petroleum we import (NET) would be to turn it into electricity or hydrogen. Even if you think this is a good idea, you’d have to believe in black magic to think this in some way is going to power the millions upon millions of gasoline and diesel-powered trucks already on the road.
3. Wind, Solar, and Geothermal Power will not do anything in the short term to solve our dependence on foreign oil. Natural Gas won’t either.
I don’t think electricity sources like wind/solar/geothermal not replacing liquid fuels needs no more explanation. I’ve written about natural gas and natural gas vehicles before:
Taking a look at data from the Energy Information Administration, the US uses about 21.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year, most of which is produced domestically (18.5 trillion cubic feet) with the difference being imported (4.2 trillion cubic feet). Proved natural gas reserves in the US amount to about 211 trillion cubic feet. If my math is correct, without taking into account any increase in demand, the US only has about 11.5 years of natural gas left. After that, we’re back to square one: importing natural gas from Russia, Qatar, Iran, and Saudi Arabia*
* If you have government/university data that contradicts it, please comment.
Even if natural gas vehicles are a good idea, they still aren’t going to replace all the cars and trucks already on the road.
To sum this up: McCain’s plan as he stated it in the debates would do absolutely nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil or reduce gas prices at the pump. Sorry Joe.
The alternative: How do we really cut petroleum usage?
The only actual mention of options that have the near-term potential to reduce our dependence on any oil source came from Obama. The two things he mentioned beyond pandering to the drill-baby-drill crowd were a) biodiesel and b) rebuilding our auto industry to start building fuel efficient cars.
Let’s look at each of these:
I’ve written extensively about biodiesel before. Optimistically, biodiesel can in fact replace a small percentage of our total petroleum usage. Unfortunately, how it’s grown and produced is key to how beneficial it is. What really needs to be incented are the advanced feedstock technologies that increase productivity and aren’t made from food crops, like biodiesel made from algae and other alternative feedstocks.
Win/Lose: Depends on how it’s implemented.
2. Fuel efficient cars
Boosting production of fuel efficient cars in a way that would create millions of new jobs and pump money into the US economy is a great idea. While this may not be something that has an immediate effect, it could be accomplished faster than any kind of transition to other fuels. Obama wants to provide $7,000 tax credits for advanced fuel and efficient vehicles and put 1 Million Plug-In Hybrid Cars on the Road by 2015.
What Both Candidates Missed Completely
If you want to pump money into the short term solutions for reducing our consumption of petroleum, there are only a few ways to do it:
Ultimately, We only have 3 options for reducing our dependence on foreign oil:
1. Reduce consumption.
2. Provide a direct replacement.
3. Develop technology that doesn’t need oil.
If we work hard, we might be able to cut 1/3 of our consumption with each.
Obama has already pledged to work towards these, but I don’t understand why he didn’t take the opportunity to seal the deal in these debates: tell the American people that we have already developed the technology to produce a $2 per gallon gasoline-replacement, we can grow it from sources that don’t affect food prices, and the money created goes back into the American economy.
It’s called cellulosic ethanol – WAIT! – the type not made from corn! The type that has about 15 potential technologies to produce it that are almost ready for primetime. The type that has the potential to replace 30% of our total petroleum usage! The type that could actually sequester carbon, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 95%! The type that Obama has already pledged to support:
Obama will invest federal resources, including tax incentives, cash prizes and government contracts into developing the most promising technologies with the goal of getting the first two billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the system by 2013.
2 billion gallons isn’t going to solve our oil addiction, but it’s a hell of a good start, and it’s really the only option for a directly replacing oil that we’ve got. Combined with drastically cutting consumption and rapidly implementing new technologies like plug-in hybrids, it’s our best bet to actually change the game now.
>> More on Obama’s Energy Plan: Obama Campaign Seeks to Make Oil Prices Irrelevant
But don’t take it from us: