Interesting paper from the U.S. Army War College:
I think are two important points to be gleaned from this paper. The first is that several US administrations in the past have offered programs designed to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil sources, with almost no success. The second is the author's point that the only factor that has had any real success in reducing America's oil consumption is higher market prices for the oil.
In my opinion, the Bush plan is more or less a political gimmick, similar to those that the author has described with respect to previous administrations. There will be no significant reduction in US oil consumption unless and until serious policy decisions such as significantly higher gasoline taxes for consumer transportation are imposed. It is also important to understand that the reliance of the United States on the Middle East is going to increase in the years to come even if oil consumption here is kept at present levels or slightly reduced. The reason for this is the declining output of several of the major non-Middle Eastern oil-producing regions as a result of depletion. The north slope of Alaska, the North Sea, the continental US and Mexico’s supergiant Canterell oilfield are all in a state of decline. The United States will have no choice but to make up for the oil that it has been importing from those sources by importing additional Middle Eastern oil. The Alberta tar sands region will produce more oil than it is currently, but it is unlikely that operations there can be scaled up sufficiently to make up for the shortfall of declining non-Middle Eastern production elsewhere.
However, the 800 pound gorilla in the room that no one is talking about in terms of US energy independence is the fact that the North American continent is essentially tapped out in terms of the natural gas supply and that significant imports of liquefied natural gas, mainly from the Middle East, are going to be necessary in the near future simply to keep our power plants running and our homes heated in the winter. By 2025, the amount of money that we are paying to Middle Eastern countries for natural gas is likely to be comparable to the current amount of money that we are sending there to purchase our oil. In other words, unless some dramatic change is made (and a dramatic change may not even be possible while maintaining our present standard of living) our energy independence is going to be significantly lessened, not improved, in the decades to come.
Any mention of hydrogen as a promising source of transportation fuel in the Bush plan is a political gimmick. Hydrogen is not an energy source; it is an energy carrier but a problematic one for many reasons. Alcohol such as ethanol or methanol or synfuels made from coal will most likely be the substitute transportation fuel of choice in the future. Ethanol made from corn takes almost as much energy to make as is contained in the ethanol, making it a poor choice as a substitute transportation fuel. Nevertheless, it is featured as a mainstay of the Bush energy plan because it is politically popular in the corn growing states of the Midwest.
I suspect that the real Bush energy plan focuses more on maintaining a military presence in the Middle East and keeping the important regimes there friendly than it does on weaning the United States away from foreign sources of energy.