A good year for energy independence      

A good year for energy independence      

Looking back, 2011 is shaping up to be a good year for energy independence — and consequently a bad year for the enemies of Israel and the United States.
NPR reported last week that for the first time in six decades — we repeat, six decades — the United States is exporting more gasoline and diesel fuel — finished petroleum products — than it imports. That’s a direct result of Americans using less gasoline.
“U.S. dependence on imported oil has dramatically declined since peaking in 2005,” according to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy. “This trend is the result of a variety of factors including a decline in consumption and shifts in supply patterns.”
The DOE report cites other factors as well: the recession, improvements in efficiency, changes in consumer behavior and patterns of economic growth. But it’s hard to get around the fact that Americans, by and large, are driving smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles and using less gasoline.
“At the same time,” the report continues, “increased use of domestic biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel), and strong gains in domestic production of crude oil and natural gas plant liquids expanded domestic supplies and reduced the need for imports.”
That’s the real good news. The more we can depend upon ourselves for our energy needs — both fossil and green — the less we’re at the mercy of oil-producing states that are anti-Israel, anti-America, or both.
Even the military is getting into the act. In Afghanistan, Marines are using biofuels and solar power for everything from communications to heating and air conditioning tents. In fact, the Navy has set a goal for using nonfossil fuels for 50 percent of its power by 2020.
The news isn’t all good. The United States still imports 49 percent of its petroleum — crude and refined — according to DOE. Oil companies, which improved the efficiency of their refineries in the good times, are now faced with closing some of them and are laying off workers.
At the same time, though, the U.S. Interior Department just announced approval for a solar plant in California and a wind farm in Oregon that are expected to create enough power for 112,500 homes and create jobs.
Such is the balancing act America is playing as it strives for energy independence.
Israel appears further along. The country plans to tap into the massive Leviathan gas field, with estimated reserves of 17 trillion cubic feet, off its Mediterranean coast, despite protests from Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon, and an Israeli company, called Better Place, is in the process of launching an electric car network in the Jewish state that will make it possible to drive anywhere in the country without range limitations. Motorists will be able to pull off at “battery switch” stations and trade in their spent fuel cells for charged ones.
Better Place has already announced the locations for nine of its 40 planned battery switch stations — Hadera, Modiin, Mahanaim, Mitzpeh Ramon, Beer Sheva, Yavne, Beit Shean and Bilu Junction — and has signed 400 agreements with parking lot owners across Israel to deploy thousands of charge spots with the first 200 sites already under construction.  Twenty-seven municipalities have signed agreements to ensure that Better Place charge spots are deployed in central locations in their cities.
For the auto industry, this will be a game changer.
Neither country can be energy independent through fossil or green fuels alone. Both know they must be energy independent to assure national security. Israel and the United States made great energy strides toward energy self-sufficiency in 2011. Let’s hope 2012 is even better.