Commentary

More on energy policy

Following up on the blogs and op/eds this week on Bush’s attack on our addiction to oil. He rolled out the goal “to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.” That sounds bold, but as Glassman points out in the article from my previous post, only 10% of our petroleum use comes from the Middle East. So he is calling for a 7.5% change in oil use–some combination of shifts to other sources or reductions in use. Not as big as many people probably thought listening to his speech, but still no small matter, considering we consumer more oil each year and import more oil as well (see here). Bush specifically flogged ethanol and hydrogen, and of course, the alternative fuels folks had orgasms. Ethanol boosters of various stripes have been crowing non stop. Alas, things are not all rosy for ethanol. It takes so much oil to produce ethanol, ship it, and to backfill for its lower energy output, that using more ethanol might increase our need for oil. At best it will only replace a very small amount of oil. See more here. And there there is hydrogen. Many people either don’t know or ignore that hydrogen is not a fuel lying around in the ground waiting for us to pump it out and burn it. Hydrogen has to be made using electricity (which is often made using oil or natural gas and transported using oil, etc. (for more on hydrogen production see here.) My colleague Lynn Kiesling did a nice 5-part analysis of the promise and pitfalls of the hydrogen economy. Check it out.

Adrian Moore

Adrian Moore, Ph.D., is vice president of policy at Reason Foundation, a non-profit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.