An Essay: US Energy Security

This is an essay by Allterra intern Emily Engle.

Energy security or the ability to secure resources for energy consumption, is a defining factor of national security, influencing both the United State’s domestic and international policies. In her book, Energy Policy, Brenda Shaffer defines energy security through three contributing factors: reliability, affordability, and environmental friendliness; all of which are dictated by the diversity of fuel sources, the ability to stockpile fuel sources, implementation of redundant infrastructure, and the nation’s flexibility in fuel use. Although these opposing factors encompass trade-offs to one another, when implemented concurrently establish secure energy sources for the U.S.’s ever-growing appetite for power.

Maintaining diverse fuel sources enables the U.S. to entertain a multitude of options to power the country. If any one source is compromised, the nation can continue producing power from alternate sources, thus ensuring energy security. The U.S. utilizes oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear power, and renewable energy resources to power the country. The renewable energy portfolio created by the federal government encourages states to set standards for renewable energy production to help diversify energy resources. Because these goals are created on a state-by-state basis they are not necessarily stringent nor effective in increasing renewable energy generation. Establishing diversity enables energy costs to stay low, and promotes sustainable sources of power, like solar.

The US has stockpiled fuel resources in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to ensure energy security by guaranteeing the reliability of a fuel supply. The SPR was created in 1975 in response to threats to oil availability from Middle Eastern conflict. In the event our country’s oil supplies were to be compromised the stockpile can provide for 40 days’ worth of U.S. oil consumption. Although this strategy is effective in ensuring available oil supplies in times of conflict, the transportation sector’s heavy dependence on petroleum resources poses a threat to national energy security

Redundant Infrastructure (the establishment of energy relations with other countries) is one of the U.S.’s strongest strategies created by policymakers to promote energy security. The military plays a significant role in securing transport routes from piracy and terrorist activity to ensure continued oil imports from a multitude of countries (Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela). The U.S. has played a prominent role in establishing the International Energy Agency, an organization composed of oil importing countries attempting to reduce their reliance on OPEC and share oil in times of compromised petroleum supplies. This ensures that infrastructure between importing countries is maintained, while simultaneously offering reliability for fuel sources.

The United States maintains flexibility in its fuel use. Electric grids allow for energy to be broadly distributed. If a certain fuel source is limited, other electricity producers can work to compensate the negated energy. Through grid connections the U.S. has been resourceful in implementing and utilizing a multiplicity of fuel sources. As the nation increases its clean energy generation, dependence on non-renewables, especially imported oil and natural gas will decline, increasing energy security.

Dependence on fossil fuels, more specifically the U.S. consumers unwavering addiction to oil, compromises the nation’s energy security. The oil reliance is the nations biggest vulnerability, subjecting consumers to price fluctuations by petroleum-exporting states. The un-political sphere of hot plasma we call the sun will not be phased by manipulations or limited exports; it will steadily supply the earth with reliable energy. It is simply up to us to utilize this clean power through the implementation of large-scale solar arrays and residential PV installations. Although solar can be subject to fluctuations in weather, it safeguards consumers from foreign price manipulations. Thus, a key determinant of national energy security is the market penetration of renewables. With greater renewable electricity production, electric vehicles will be more viable in divesting our transport sector away from petroleum. Transitioning to renewables will help America maintain more environmentally friendly, affordable and reliable energy sources to improve its power security. Taking local action by installing PV on your home can have national implications helping to secure U.S. energy.