NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 29, 2008

Markets, not politics, should determine how much energy we import, says Joseph L. Bast of the Heartland Institute.

"Energy independence" has become the rallying cry for many environmental and anti-war activists who seek to wean businesses and consumers in the United States from reliance on imported fossil fuels.  But can energy independence be achieved, and if so at what costs, asks Bast?

  • Genuine energy independence would require energy isolationism -- the erection of barriers to free trade with other countries -- which is known to slow economic growth, invite retaliation by trading partners and raise prices.
  • Therefore, free trade, not isolationism, is the way to enhance energy security and world peace.

According to Robert Ebel, head of the energy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "It makes absolutely no sense to talk about energy independence. … We cannot produce our way to energy independence, and we cannot use efficiency or conservation to achieve energy independence…"

Since some progress toward self-sufficiency could make our energy supplies more secure, policymakers should focus on removing public policies that restrict the development of domestic energy supplies, including nuclear power and domestic fossil fuel reserves.  State legislators can take the following steps, suggests Bast:

  • Support the repeal of federal and state restrictions on coal, natural gas and oil extraction from public lands and offshore.
  • Remove regulatory barriers and policies that allow anti-nuclear and NIMBY ("not in my backyard") activists to stop or delay the construction of new facilities.
  • End subsidies and preferences for all types of energy -- fossil fuels as well as renewable -- and allow energy technologies to compete on a level playing field.
  • Repeal state "renewable portfolio standard" laws that force electric utilities to purchase highly subsidized wind power.

Source: Joseph L. Bast, "Energy independence is an illusion," from, "Ten Principles of Energy Policy," Heartland Institute, Legislative Principles Series, No. 4, Summer 2008.


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