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Can the US Achieve Energy Independence by 2020?


Source: League of Women Voters

The Republican platform adopted by the GOP in Tampa this week reaffirmed the party's commitment to achieving "domestic energy independence."As it happens, question #6 of the 14 "Top American Science Questions in 2012" deals with exactly this issue. More specifically, the question reads:

6. Energy. Many policymakers and scientists say energy security and sustainability are major problems facing the United States this century. What policies would you support to meet the demand for energy while ensuring an economically and environmentally sustainable future?

Some of us (myself included) are old enough to remember that every U.S. President since Richard Nixon has vowed to achieve energy independence. (See this timeline of energy independence by Charles Homans, at Foreign Policy). Here's how the 2012 Republican Platform looks to achieving energy independence:

  • "development of new, state-of-the-art coal-fired plants that will be low-cost, environmentally responsible, and efficient."
  • "a reasoned approach to all offshore energy development on the East Coast and other appropriate waters"
  • "opening the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for energy exploration and development"
  • "opening the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for exploration and production of oil and natural gas"
  • "allowing for more oil and natural gas exploration on federally owned and controlled land"
  • "cost-effective development of renewable energy," using a "market-based approach . . . to aggressively develop alternative sources for electricity generation such as wind, hydro, solar, biomass, geothermal, and tidal energy."

For more details on how a Romney-Ryan Administration would go about achieving energy independence by 2020, see his newly released energy plan.

Scientific American is partnering with the folks at and more than a dozen leading scientific and engineering organizations to try to inject more substance into the elections debates this year by asking 14 key science-related questions. Given the prominent place of the economy in this year's election and science and engineering's role in fueling the economy, it makes sense to look at these questions in further depth.

Energy policy is not my usual beat, so I am particularly looking for thoughtful, insightful comments on either (or both) the GOP Platform and Romney-Ryan plans. (Obviously, we have to wait until next week's convention in North Carolina to read the Democratic Party Platform.)

Update (Sept. 5, 2012): Click to see the answers to the top 14 science questions from Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

Election 2012 button used under Creative Commons license BY 2.0.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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