As the date of this year’s primary election approaches for the 11th Congressional District, it is important to consider where each candidate stands. Most importantly, what issues are their focus as they campaign to represent WNC in the nation’s leading legislative body? This question led me to the campaign website for current State Senator Chuck Edwards, one of the challengers for incumbent Madison Cawthorn, where I found an issue of particular interest: energy independence.
Edwards raises some interesting points about the sourcing of fuels for American energy production. In particular, the practice of relying on large amounts of foreign oil and gas for energy sourcing is one that poses a number of possible challenges, many of which are being exposed daily by fallout from the geopolitical conflict in Ukraine. And yet, Edwards falls short with a number of his claims. Most importantly, he neglects to consider renewable energy sourcing.
I do not mean to suggest that the concept of decreasing reliance on foreign energy is something that should be avoided or ignored. According to data from the Department of Energy, the U.S. imported 7.86 million barrels of oil per day in 2020 which, with some brief calculation, results in over $100 billion spent on foreign oil. This is no small sum, and decreasing imports would certainly save money by avoiding the costs of international trade, thus cementing energy independence as an important policy to consider.
Here is where Edwards’s claims begin to fall flat. By importing oil and gas, he argues, America has become “more dependent than ever on its foreign adversaries”. So which foreign governments are these? Per the Department of Energy, over half of 2020 imports, at 4.13 million barrels per day, came from our northern neighbor, Canada. Unless I am mistaken, most Americans would consider Canada, if anything, the opposite of an adversary.
In light of this concern, Edwards argues that the U.S. should focus on becoming an exporter of energy “again,” suggesting that policies presented by former President Trump focused on empowering the nation. And yet, during the Trump presidency, little changed in the trajectories of U.S. oil consumption, and exports have exceeded imports since President Biden took office. Finally, Edwards’ mention of the Keystone XL pipeline as being part of American energy production is a bit concerning since it involves sourcing oil from Canada and not from the U.S.
My greater concern, however, is that the overarching assumption made by Edwards is American energy independence has to occur with American oil. If we wish to discuss the concept of energy independence, there should be the consideration that, at minimum, some of that homemade energy could come from less carbon-intensive sources such as nuclear power or wind and solar energy, among others.
To begin with, human-caused climate change poses significant public health and environmental challenges according to the IPCC’s 2022…
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