Growing Our Own Energy Independence

Anytime gas prices rise at the pump, people look for a scapegoat. Usually, there’s one to be found, and almost always that scapegoat is not the cause.

We Americans have been experiencing the worst inflation in nearly four decades, making every-day goods and especially fuel more expensive, and, at the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an unprovoked, unnecessary war on Ukraine. While any significant military conflict is bound to send fuel prices up, one that involves the “Bread Basket of Europe” and the third largest oil producer in the world was inevitably going to cause pain at the pump.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen several articles and opinion pieces making claims about America’s “energy independence,” while other articles note America is still reliant on imported oil and gas. What is being entirely left out of the conversation is the role plant-based fuels can and should play in our fuel supply. While some have insisted the rise in prices at the pump correlates directly to the Biden Administration’s climate policies, “The Interior Department processed more oil and gas drilling permits during Biden’s first year in office than three of the four years of the Trump administration,” according to a recent Politico article. This is all in addition to the false claims that America – at long last – had achieved “energy independence” in the last Administration, only to see that independence reversed by the Biden Administration.

About two weeks ago, two of our countries most decorated Flag Officers co-wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times. In their piece, “The West’s Delusion of Energy Independence.” Admiral Dennis Blair and General Joseph Dunford run through a litany of reasons America and the West are not – and will not be – energy independent. Disappointingly, although not surprisingly, they entirely ignore the role plant-based fuels can and should play in our energy ecosystem. With the utmost respect for Admiral Blair’s and General Dunford’s service to our country, we’d like to add to the points they make in their piece. There is a new generation of liquid fuels entering the market that are renewable-resource-based, work with standard combustion engines, have low greenhouse gas emissions, and are true drop-ins to existing fuel infrastructure. The raw material for these gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels is homegrown and leverages the strength of American agriculture. Done right, both food and raw materials for fuel production can be generated while improving the sustainability of agriculture. American farmers should play a bigger role in the American energy industry than any foreign power. 

A recent Pew Study suggests that Americans – to the tune of nearly seven in ten (69 percent) – favor the U.S. taking steps to become carbon neutral by 2050 and the same percentage favor the U.S., “prioritizing developing alternative energy, such as wind or solar.” Yet nowhere in the study are there questions about utilizing the already available technology of plant-based liquid hydrocarbons that are already drop-in ready to replace petro-based fuels.

We are at an inflection point in our energy evolution. Majorities of Americans recognize the climate threat is real, but at least a third are reluctant to phase out fossil fuels. A sizeable percentage of Americans believe we are already energy independent and don’t want to lose that unfactual, imaginary position. There is only one solution to that, and it isn’t next-generation batteries or hydrogen, it’s utilizing what exists right now. We have the capability to have net-zero fuel in our cars and airplanes, we just need to get to scale to provide it. Anyone seeking to be energy independent should be looking to the American Farmer as the key to that freedom. And wouldn’t it be better if the huge amounts of money we spend on transportation fuel went to the farmers of the Midwest and the growing numbers of workers who are trying to help put our country on a path to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and true energy independence?