Independence? Deloitte says it’s really about security

At a time when candidates from both political parties talk about the potential for energy independence, a report released Monday by Deloitte argues that U.S. energy policy should focus instead on energy security.

And it said that is a realistic and achievable goal.

The United States already produces all of the natural gas it uses and has the potential to export that fuel, thanks to the shale gas boom, the report notes. It also produces all of coal it uses — coal is used for almost half of all electricity produced in the United States — and the country increasingly exports coal as the fuel falls out of favor here.

The report, Energy Independence and Security: A Reality Check, argues that the real issue is to reduce petroleum imports from unfriendly nations.

It concludes with a list of recommendations, starting with “prudent” onshore and offshore development and exploration.

The report by Branko Terzic, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions and former commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, also calls for government policies to support greater energy efficiency and increased support for energy production by U.S. allies.

“While U.S. energy independence may be unattainable in the foreseeable future, energy security is a realistic and achievable goal,” the report says.

Much of the report focuses on petroleum, noting that the United States hasn’t produced all the crude oil it consumes for decades.

“Our need to import crude oil is the single most important factor behind all policy discussions of energy security and ‘independence’,” Terzic wrote.

But even there, the United States is less dependent on imported crude oil than it used to be — importing 45 percent of crude oil used here, down from a high of 60 percent.

That, too, is due to the increase in shale oil production and the technological advances of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.

More than one-third of imported crude oil comes from Canada and Mexico, according to the Deloitte report. The rest is imported from countries in South America, Africa and the Middle East. Canada is the single largest supplier, at 25 percent of imported crude oil.

Almost three-fourth of petroleum was consumed by transportation — 71 percent, while industry used 23 percent, according to the report.

Terzic concludes that although energy independence may be unattainable in the near future, energy security — a stable supply at stable prices — is within reach.

In addition to continuing to support domestic production, he recommends strong support for legislation and policies that encourage greater efficiency, including natural gas, electric and other alternative fuel vehicle programs.

He also calls for more research into clean-coal and clean-gas technologies, as well as more support for alternative and renewable energy, including wind and solar, and a new natural nuclear fuel storage and disposal plan.