Despite cries about high gas prices, the fight over Keystone, and attacks on the administration's energy policies, The New York Times says the United States is actually much closer to energy independence than it has been in decades. Last year, the U.S. imported 45 percent of its liquid fuel from other countries, which is a huge drop from the record highs of just six years ago. Not only that, the country has actually become a net exporter for refined petroleum and could soon do the same for natural gas. If current trends in production and demand keep up — big ifs, as always — the long-held dream of not relying on anyone else for power could actually become a reality.
Not that President Obama will get any credit for it. His Republican challengers have spent most of the last year attacking him as a sort of "green warrior" would rather protect animals and his buddies in the solar panel industry than keep prices down. The truth is that despite some high profile fights, like the on-again/off-again Keystone pipeline extension, the current administration has kept up many of the policies of the last one. That's a fact that infuriates environmentalists, many of whom believe that the president hasn't done nearly enough to rein in oil companies, protect sensitive lands and waterways, or promote alternative energy. (Nuclear doesn't count.) Many of the gains in production have come as a result of more offshore drilling and new technologies like fracking, that have questionable effects on the environment. The result is a President who is taking heat from all sides; mostly for consequences — high gas prices and increased smog — that he has no control over.
Still, the idea that America could someday produce all its own energy remains pretty tantalizing. Perhaps even more than $2.50 gas. Stories like North Dakota's jobs boom or 50 miles per gallon cares feel pretty good, even in the face of burning tap water or mysterious earthquakes. Never mind the joy of sticking it to those Saudi kings. No matter who gets the credit or how we eventually get there, it's an idea everyone can get behind. Then once we get the oil problem solved we can fight wars over water instead.