[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/WORLD/americas/12/15/eco.obamaenergyteam/art.browner.afp.jpg caption="Carol Browner was one of four key environmental nominees named by Obama."]
Arthur B. Laffer
The Wall Street Journal
This week in Chicago, President-elect Barack Obama introduced key members of his new energy and environmental team and gave a statement expressing his administration's ambitious goal to make America energy independent. While his desire to do so is sincere, such a strategy would be disastrous for our economy.
The platitude of "energy independence" makes zero economic sense. Yes, it's true that many nations that supply us with oil are run by anti-American governments. But unfortunately embargoes don't overturn despotic regimes. More often than not they harden them, as in Zimbabwe, North Korea and Cuba. Since the U.S. is so reliant on oil, embargoes will hurt the U.S. as much, if not more, than the countries of OPEC. The issue of how to handle the anti-American nature of oil-exporting nations is not for the Commerce Department, but for the White House, the State Department and perhaps the Department of Defense.
The U.S. currently imports some 60% of the oil we use. To imagine an energy-independent U.S. today is to envision gas at $20 or more per gallon and a true depression. President Dwight D. Eisenhower tried oil import tariffs in the 1950s, as has every president since. Yet never before has America's reliance on foreign oil been greater than it is now.
While energy independence for the U.S. would enormously increase the price of oil at home, it would have the exact opposite effect in the rest of the world. Cheap oil for countries like China would surely not benefit the U.S. or the world's environment. Businesses that use oil would move offshore, costing American jobs while still polluting the world's environment. Artificial energy independence is neither a good foreign policy nor a good domestic economic policy.
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