Is "Energy Independence" even possible in the US?

Energy independence the goal

Bismarck Tribune

Achieving energy independence through an aggressive mixture of renewable energy sources and fossil fuels was a recurring subject at Bismarck State College on Monday.

Nearly 150 people attended the Renewable Energy Action Summit on Monday, hosted by Bismarck State College, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Gov. John Hoeven and Kadrmas Lee &Jackson Inc.

Wind transmission, federal and local renewable energy initiatives, and specifically the ethanol industry were the topics for discussion during the one-day conference, which featured Andy Karsner, former U.S. assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, as the keynote speaker.

Karsner emphasized energy independence for the nation.

"We are the creators, the innovators,"he said. "That is the best available."

He cited exciting moves forward, including standards for vehicular efficiency and a waiver that is pending with the Environmental Protection Agency for a 15 percent blend of ethanol and gasoline. Consumers have the option of E10 at most pumps, or E85 if their vehicles are equipped for it.

That waiver was filed by Tom Buis, who wrapped up the day of presentations with his staunch defense of ethanol.

Buis is the former president of the National Farmers Union and currently the chief executive officer of Growth Energy, representing ethanol producers in America.

He emphasized that the ethanol industry would greatly benefit from an increased blend, and that the move would reduce America's oil imports by 7 percent, add 136,000 new jobs, double the contribution to the nation's gross domestic product and help revitalize rural communities.

But the market needs to be created first, he said. Overproduction and distrust of ethanol is harming the industry. This year, at least one ethanol plant in North Dakota is facing fiscal uncertainty.

Karsner said that similar arguments against unleaded gasoline surfaced when the nation began moving away from leaded gasoline.

Critics of ethanol say it has resulted in a rise in grocery goods, from tortillas to beer to toothpaste. Ethanol has been painted as a beast that takes more energy to produce than it provides, that it's bad for engines and food, and, ultimately, business.

Buis countered all points, saying there are as many acres of yellow corn in production as there were in the '80s, but the yields are higher. He said most of the producers blaming ethanol for rising prices of their products don't use yellow corn, and that the gas-additive is much more efficient than it was to begin with.

"The industry is changing,"he said. "We don't produce ethanol the way we did 30 years ago."

But the industry continues to suffer, and Hoeven, Dorgan, Buis and Karsner all spoke on their support for a waiver for E15.

Dorgan said E15 should become a long-term part of the energy future, and that the North Dakota industry would immediately benefit from the waiver.

Other speakers included Shane Goettle, commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Commerce and Empower ND; Jonna Hamilton, energy and environment assistant for Dorgan; Mark Nisbet of Excel Energy; and several other speakers form the renewable energy industry.

This is the third annual Renewable Energy Action Summit; this year's summit was hosted in Bismarck State College's new National Center for Energy Excellence.

(Reach Crystal R. Reid at 250-8261 or

eyexer's picture
Joined: 2/28/07

To me energy independence isn't a total stop to using foreign energy.  It's more of recovering enough of your own assets to put you in a position to dictate what that foreign energy costs us. 


Bob kellam's picture
Bob kellam
Joined: 7/22/05

I agree, however,  to what extent can we even hope to influence the "supply and demand" structure.. and at what cost? Energy independence seems to be IMHO a catch phrase to often used to attempt to gain politically . 

The term has been around since the oil embargo days of the 70's. Are we any closer today. Don't confuse my skeptic nature, I would love to tell the Middle Eastern oil producing countries to go pound sand. I just cannot see it anytime in the future without significant changes.

Tim Sandstrom's picture
Tim Sandstrom
Joined: 7/14/03

Oh it can be done and the current administration knows what it will take...the slow down of our economy, going back to rations of electricity, etc.  You can see it in their agendas of carbon taxes, etc.  They want people who use energy (the very people who create jobs, enjoy life, etc) to be punished for using it.  Heck, my theory is actually wrong.  They NEED the mass consumption of energy to continue so they can tax us to death on it.  It is the only way their phantom dreams of national health care can exist.  It's like the anti smokers needing people to continue to smoke.  As Bob said, he is totally correct, the energy play is all political.  The crazy part is the warm fuzzies are winning over the hearts.  What does that say?  Lack of brains?  Me tink so.

I'm all for conservation but I am not in favor of it by putting the cart in front of the horse.  That is an expensive and destructive approach.  Everyone says (or many say) "Oh, the car companies are just out to make money and they won't make fuel efficient cars."

Stop and think about that people.  WHY WOULDN'T THEY MAKE FUEL EFFICIENT CARS?  For crying out loud, do you know how rich I could be if I was the first person to make a pickup get 30 mpg?  I'd destroy the competition.  The truth is, the cost of fuel efficiency research is just too much right now.  Time and technology must coincide for it to make sense when a person starts staring at the sticker price.

Just a rant during dinner...



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eyexer's picture
Joined: 2/28/07

There is only one way it can be accomplished.  That is to build refineries.  We can suck all the oil out of the ground we want but it won't matter if we can't refine it. 


cynical's picture
Joined: 10/27/04

Today's biofuel technology is not adequate imho.    Cellulosic ethanol may be able to make ethanol profitable but it has some problems.    The biggest problem is that the BIG AG companies and suppliers wont like it because it is not an annual crop which doesnt need much fertilizer.    No big seed sales annually, no big fertizer requirements annually, minimal yearly weed chemicals required all equal bad news for BIG AG.    Plus no big fancy machinery required.    

Politicians blather on about energy independence but they always spout off about solar and wind power as if we can power our transportation fleet with windmills and the sun?    There is a serious lack of big picture planning due to politics.    T. Boone Pickens has a plan but few will listen.    His plan makes sense imho except for the heavy reliance on wind power.    Natural gas could be a huge part of the solution but the enviro-nuts will fight it due to their global warming paranoa.   

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eyexer's picture
Joined: 2/28/07

The tree huggers are against going all out with natural gas because they will loose a cause to trumpet at election time.