Addicted to Oil: The Challenge

Fortune magazine describes the challenges of overcoming our oil addiction. Conservation is essential. Excerpts below.

Link: Fortune – Plugged in: The hard truth about oil – Feb. 9, 2006

Presidents going back to Richard Nixon have been talking about energy independence. It’s one of those vote-getting platforms that no one could possibly be against — like world peace, mom and apple pie. It gives us the illusion of control over our energy destiny, which we don’t have, at least in a fossil-fuel based economy.

The only way we’re ever going to be able to boost oil supplies here at home is through conservation, and that’s something the government is going to have push aggressively, at least until technological advances like cellulosic ethanol, hydrogen and other alternative energy forms become available.

… an Exxon Mobil (Research) exec had the courage to say aloud what every oil insider in the world knows — America isn’t going to be ‘energy independent’ anytime soon, if ever.

"Realistically, it is simply not feasible in any period relevant to our discussion today," Exxon Senior V.P. Stuart McGill told the crowd at a Houston energy conference, according to Reuters.

Referring to the gap between imports and domestic production — which is about 10 million barrels, or half our daily consumption, McGill said, "Americans depend upon imports to fill the gap. No combination of conservation measures, alternative energy sources and technological advances could realistically and economically provide a way to completely replace those imports in the short or medium term."

To be fair, President Bush did take some very valuable-and significant steps forward in his State of the Union address. Like noting the high cost of depending on the Middle East and other volatile regions for our crude, and being bold enough to actually use the word addiction, which many politicians have studiously avoided. And talking up the potential of cellulosic ethanol, which FORTUNE recently wrote about (click here to read that story), but needs much greater investment and support.

…while conservation won’t end the need for imports, it could ultimately get us a lot closer to energy independence than any of the President’s other suggestions.