Foreign oil independence by 2030: Can we make it happen?
Too much marketing, too much spin, too little leadership?
Yesterday I read that some believe that GM’s new CEO Dan Akerson is too focused on marketing, rather than product – a tendency that has often plagued GM in the past. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it got me thinking about goals and leadership, especially in corporate America and in Congress.
Obviously, profitability is the primary goal of automakers, and achieving foreign oil independence isn’t profitable today, at least not in conventional terms. Thus, the concept of foreign oil independence is irrelevant in the corporate boardrooms of most automakers.
But will foreign oil independence be profitable in 2030?
While that might seem like a ‘no, duh’ kind of question, the US is not on a path to be foreign oil independent by 2030, not even close, despite the significant uptick in green marketing from automakers.
For instance, add up the production forecasts offered by the Big 3 for hybrid and EV penetration, plus current pickup truck sales and 2025 CAFE requirement proposals coupled with the 20 year legacy effect of today’s auto sales, and foreign oil independence by 2030 seems a joke. Then add in government and industry forecasts for oil consumption in 2030 and it’s obvious that foreign oil independence by 2030 is barely even conceivable.
There’s just too many quarterly corporate statements and election cycles between today and 2030 for a legitimate focus on foreign oil independence.
Sure the oil might dry up or become too expensive and we’ll simply have no choice, but such foreign oil independence will come with massive costs. Why not be better prepared, especially with so much innovative, job-creating potential at hand?
Achieving energy independence won’t happen over night. Even if nothing but 100 mpg vehicles were built starting today, it would still take 20 years to replace the hundreds of millions of vehicles already guzzling on US roads. Thus, we really have to understand the long term consequences of today’s automotive decisions.
Especially since the energy forecasts suggest that the oil is drying up as demand is set to explode.
Certainly it’s possible that new biotechnologies, natural gas, etc. will be able to offset the decline in oil availability without any serious economic harm, but the last 20 years of foreign oil dependence suggest we won’t be prepared. Moreover, the problems caused by foreign oil dependence over the last two decades seem to be escalating, quite significantly in fact. Based on such a trajectory, isn’t banking on another 20+ years of dependency a risky gamble?
So why not be proactive? Call it our generation’s moonshot, our Manhattan project. Foreign oil independence is just as significant.
Recently, an Accenture study found that the key for future US automotive success is energy diversity and innovation. However, the most successful path towards this new energy future requires sound, long term government policy that supports long term independent investment. Additionally, the plan has to be lean and mean, not filled with pork. In order to remain competitive, according to Accenture, the new plan forward has to be built upon a cost-effective plan that can utilize our legacy infrastructure, at least in the interim.
So where is the Congressional study or the Presidential task force on Foreign Oil Independence by 2030? I mean why not study the different combination of resources and technologies that could make such a goal happen using a number of diverse and objective resources? Why not find out what the costs would be versus the long term ROI?
Give each automaker, for instance, a budget to put forth a plan. Same for the energy companies. Add in a number of universities, and analyst firms like Accenture. Then consolidate the best of all plans.
Considering that the US spends 100′s of billions of dollars every year on foreign oil that we spend many billions more securing, isn’t a serious study on ending this addiction as quickly and cost-effectively as possible a worthy first step towards recovery, towards change? Considering this new energy future is inevitable one way or another, isn’t it a dereliction of duty that Congress has not yet made this issue a top priority?