President Barack Obama's plans to reduce U.S. oil imports makes sense only if significant policy changes take place.
In the recent past, the president has talked about a proposal to reduce petroleum imports by one-third during the next decade.
Key facets of his plan include more ambitious requirements for vehicle efficiency, expanding domestic oil production and increasing use of natural gas and biofuels.
We think that upping U.S. oil production is a good idea. That said, it's been principally Democrats that have, for decades, blocked new drilling offshore and in Alaska.
In terms of mandating higher fuel economy for cars and trucks, Obama has hit on a political winner - though not necessarily a realistic option. It is easy for government to insist on better mpg, not so easy for automakers to achieve it with vehicles the public wants to buy and can afford.
Boosting use of natural gas in vehicles certainly holds some promise, in view of massive supplies of gas now being found and exploited. Again, however, there are challenges including infrastructure (try to find a place to get a natural gas "fill-up") and production of gas-powered cars Americans will buy.
Biofuels means even more use of ethanol - diverting more corn from the food supply and thus increasing food prices. And, the ethanol industry exists largely because of multi-billion-dollar government subsidies and a mandate gasoline refineries must blend ethanol into their mix.
It may surprise some of our readers to learn our No. 1 source of imported oil is not in the Middle East. It is Canada, from which we obtain about 2.8 million barrels of oil a day. In order, the countries we rely most on are Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Nigeria.
Obama doesn't say much about coal - our nation's single most important source of energy. More use of it to generate electricity could free up oil and natural gas now being used for the purpose.
But the president doesn't include coal in his new energy strategy. We believe that's a mistake.
Given current government strategy, there simply is no way Obama can reach his goal of cutting U.S. oil imports by one-third. Massive changes in policy - starting with coal - will be needed if petroleum imports are to be reduced by even one-third of one-third.