Over the past decade, republicans have fought to limit U.S. access to alternative fuels and transportation systems that would have helped reduce oil prices while at the same time enforcing dependence on that dirty, dangerous and depleting fuel.
By the early 2000s, republicans and their oil company backers played an interesting game. They spoke about the need for a shift to alternative fuels, while doubling down on oil, encouraging SUV and other large vehicle purchases. But now republicans are doing everything they can to kill alternative energy funding while attacking solutions to higher oil prices like electric vehicles produced by Chevy and more efficient vehicles of all kinds.
As early as last spring, republicans were fighting to cut alternative energy spending in Congress. When the FY 2011 budget was proposed, republicans attempted to make the following cuts:
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy -$899 million Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability -$49 million Nuclear Energy -$169 million
At the same time, republicans supported large subsidies to oil companies. In May, republicans voted to kill a bill that would have ended $12 billion in oil subsidies to the largest U.S. oil companies. All when oil companies were more profitable than at any time in history. This year alone, oil companies raked in over $100 billion in profits on top of their subsidies, which republicans seem to think they need just to show how special they are for gouging the American public, wrecking the Gulf Coast, or funding proxy attacks on climate scientists.
But not only are republicans trying to enforce dependence on expensive oil while de-funding government support for renewable energy, they are also actively involved in a rhetorical attack against any long-term solutions to U.S. oil dependence. Recently, republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich derided the Chevy Volt, an electric vehicle that vastly reduces dependence on oil, saying “you cannot put a gun rack in a Volt.” But Gingrich isn’t the only republican rabid to attack this U.S. – made, hi-tech, solution to oil dependence. In fact, republican political adviser Bob Lutz recently asked republicans to stop attacking the Chevy Volt saying: “The Oscar for totally irresponsible journalism has to go to ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ on
Fox News, with as its key guest, Lou Dobbs. Amid much jocular yukking, the Volt was depicted as a typical federal failure…” But the Volt wasn’t a failure at all. It was an amazing success – ranking highest in customer satisfaction out of any car sold in 2011. So it seems republicans are only alienating those Americans who love their Volts or those Americans who feel owning an electric vehicle is the highest form of patriotism and the best way to reduce oil dependence long-term.
Republican attacks on the Volt and their attempts to rake in more money for the already fattened oil companies comes across as little more than economically dangerous pandering to a very wealthy set of political backers, even if that pandering is counter to U.S. prosperity and security. But if you listen to the republican rhetoric, you won’t get a look at that rather ugly reality. Instead, you’ll listen to all sorts of magical nonsense about how we can drill our way to oil independence.
But studies from both the U.S. Energy Information Administration and from independent watch-dogs show that U.S. oil production will never meet the current demand of 18.87 million barrels per day. To do that, we would have to increase production by 8.3 million barrels per day while keeping all the republican-derided U.S. ethanol production intact. The most optimistic of these studies show increases from all sources of oil flows at 4 million barrels per day within 10 years. At the same time, declines in traditional wells results in a loss of 3 million barrels per day of U.S. production. The result? Only a 1 million barrel per day net increase, even in the most optimistic of cases. And this increased production would only result in what little oil remains in U.S. soil being depleted more rapidly. A replacement of half the U.S. vehicle fleet with electric vehicles over the next ten years, however, would reduce U.S. oil consumption by nearly 6 million barrels per day. Add that to a 1 million barrel increase in oil supply and another 1 million barrels per day from biofuels and you suddenly get that oil independence politicians have been harping about for so long, with 80% coming from things other than drilling.
But it’s not likely that oil companies would be so profitable in such a scenario, hence the republican attacks on all alternatives. It ends up that dirty, dangerous, and depleting oil is something that is obscenely profitable for oil companies. And republicans are doing their best to keep you hooked.
U.S. Energy Information Administration