Many people believe that national security would be advanced if we reduce our petroleum usage, because, goes this theory, we would be funneling less money to the Middle East which then would reduce, if not eliminate, funding for terrorists who wish to harm the U.S. (more on this in the future). Ex-CIA Director, James Woolsey, for instance, is reported to have said that we need “destroy the strategic power” of petroleum by making us not less dependent on foreign oil, but less dependent on oil, period. See, also, here.
But if we reduce our oil demand — whether by subsidizing or mandating renewables, tightening CAFE, or hiking gasoline taxes — the first barrel of oil that would be withheld from production will most likely be the barrel with the highest marginal cost of production, and the last barrel of oil that would be displaced would be the one that has the lowest marginal cost of production. This means that the first barrel of oil that wouldn’t be produced is probably oil from the Tar Sands of Alberta and deep/ultra-deep waters in (or near) the United States, and, possibly, Brazil, Angola, and Nigeria. The last barrel to stop production will probably be from Saudi Arabia. In other words, subsidies for alternatives to petroleum will probably do more harm to our friends and ourselves, before they hurt the people from whom we are trying to gain “energy independence”.
We could hurt ourselves in a variety of ways. First, mandating renewables would increase our energy bill. Second, subsidizing petroleum alternatives would reduce our take home pay because the government would have to pay for the subsidies, and guess who will have to pay for that!. Third, we may have to shut production down in deep and ultra deep waters in the vicinity of the U.S.
Talk about cutting one’s nose to spite another’s face.