Jan. 1, 2007: The Wall Street Journal— Gentlemen, Start Your Plug-Ins

Summary: "An oil and security task force of the Council on Foreign Relations recently opined that "the voices that espouse ‘energy independence’ are doing the nation a disservice by focusing on a goal that is unachievable over the foreseeable future." Others have also said, essentially, that other nations will control our transportation fuel–get used to it. Yet House Democrats have announced a push for "energy independence in 10 years," and in November General Motors joined Toyota and perhaps other auto makers in a race to produce plug-in hybrid vehicles, hugely reducing the demand for oil. Who’s right–those who drive toward independence or those who shrug?

Bet on major progress toward independence, spurred by market forces and a portfolio of rapidly developing oil-replacing technologies.

In recent years a number of alternatives to conventional oil have come to the fore–oil sands, oil shale, coal-to-diesel and coal-to-methanol technologies. But their acceptability to a new Congress, quite possibly the next president, and a public increasingly concerned about global warming will depend on their demonstrating affordable and effective methods of sequestering the carbon they produce or otherwise avoiding carbon emissions."

Woolsey sees non-petroleum liquid fuels, like biodiesel and ethanol derived from biomass, gaining market share through the increased use of plug-in hybrids as well. If electricity loosens Big Oil’s grip on transportation, those alternative fuels might find it easier to settle in.

Is energy independence in 10 years possible or laughable? It also remains to be seen whether some of these new alternatives will prove to be environmental boons or research-dollar boondoggles.

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