he oil industry and environmentalists are nervously awaiting a decision from President Obama on whether he'll allow construction of the controversial, 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline. Snaking through the Midwest, the pipeline would carry Canadian oil-sands crude to Texas refineries. The project comes as many new technologies have already helped revive declining domestic oil fields, reducing imports from a record 60 percent of U.S. consumption in 2005 to about 47 percent now. Many people once considered energy independence to be an unrealistic dream. Is it now reasonable to think that the U.S. could wean itself off of oil from the volatile Middle East?
Absolutely. America's energy future has changed: There's a "new U.S. oil boom" underway, says Ed Crooks at Financial Times. New techniques such as hydraulic fracturing (to break up underground rock and free trapped reserves) and long-reach horizontal drilling have uncorked what could be a 100-year supply of natural gas. And with oil-sands crude coming, too, North American energy independence is no longer a distant dream — it's really within reach.
"Pendulum swings on American oil independence"
Be careful what you wish for: Energy independence would come at a steep price, Chris MacDonald, a visiting business-ethics scholar at the University of Toronto, tells The Christian Science Monitor. Canada is fighting oil-sands pipeline opposition by saying its crude is more "ethical" than the "conflict oil" coming from places like Saudi Arabia, which tramples women's rights. But "tar sands oil is the dirtiest and least environmentally attractive oil in the world. Choose your poison: Environmental or human degradation."
"Is Canada's oil more ethical than Saudi Arabia's?"
We have oil — but it will never be enough: It's fair to say that the gloomy warnings about America's dwindling energy supply were overblown, says Steve LeVine at Foreign Policy. But the same might be true of "the Big New Idea of U.S. oil abundance." Even if we do have way more oil than once thought, we're going to run out of hydrocarbons in the foreseeable future. And we still don't have the "non-fossil fuel technology" we need to replace them.
"Is this group think, or is the U.S. about to be energy-independent?"
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