Importance of replacing oil

Alternative Energy Pictures, Images and Photos
Yesterday President Obama gave a speech about energy and it got me thinking about the subject. He set a goal for the U.S. to reduce oil imports by 1/3 within 10 years. I’m not sure if this is possible or not, but assuming it is and that the country will proceed on that track, I wonder what Saudi Arabia was thinking when they heard about it. Initially, I’m sure they just rolled their eyes because it’s only the 1000th time a U.S. President has said similar things and then did nothing about it. However, given the high price of oil right now coupled with more potential oil from countries like Canada and Brazil, they may be looking at this more seriously.

What would a country like Saudi Arabia do if a new U.S. energy policy called for 30% less oil imports from the Middle East? They certainly would not be happy. It wouldn’t be the end of the world for them because China and India would be happy to buy the rest. However, selling to the U.S. is a safer bet and has been for many decades. Still, Saudi Arabia would still be rich with oil money.

Now, what if the U.S. said that they will import less and less oil from Saudi Arabia because they found a better energy source that is cleaner, cheaper and can be produced efficiently enough so that countries will not need to import much oil at all? This means that China would only need to license (or in their case, steal) the technology and they too would not need to import oil from the Middle East. This would surely have the Saudis selling the contents of their golden palaces.

More importantly, the entire world would be a much safer place. A world that needs nothing from the Middle East and all their dictators is a world that is infinitely safer and better in every respect. Even for the people in the Middle East it would be safer because those dictators will lose the income that allows them to suppress their citizens. They may even have to invest in real education and opportunity (a foreign thought for these dictators).

Unfortunately, this magical energy alternative does not yet exist. I’m sure it will eventually, but not today or for the foreseeable future. Instead, we have to throw a whole bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks. Wind, solar, geothermal, bio fuel, nuclear, natural gas and others all need to play a part to move away from oil. There are already decentralized energy boxes (see BloomBox) that can power a home and run on vegetable oil or natural gas. We also have prototypes of a new electric car complete with a new infrastructure and idea (see Project Better Place). However, this will all take several years to become commercially available and affordable. Until then, we just need to sit tight and wait.