The pipe dream of energy independence

Juan Cole, the expert on Iraqi Shi’ism who’s understandably gone a bit batty on the Bush administration since the unpleasantness began in Iraq, makes some fine points nevertheless on the subject of U.S. energy independence. Namely that it’s not going to happen and politicians should stop talking as if it is.

I happen to be more sympathetic to nuclear energy than most thoroughgoing greens, at least as an interim solution to the greenhouse-gas problem. And if “energy independence” really means “not buying billions of dollars in fuel from repressive Middle Eastern regimes that hate the United States and/or only stay in power by in turn subsidizing people who do,” nuclear power’s a pretty good way to get there. But given how much uranium the United States needs to import, it’s not a way to make the U.S. truly independent in its energy consumption.

In a global market economy, we might as well talk about silicon independence (computers being a strategic economic and military resource, after all), or pharmaceutical independence, or plywood independence. It’s nonsensical.


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