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Policy Brief 11-10

America’s Energy Security Options

by Trevor Houser, Peterson Institute for International Economics
and Shashank Mohan, Rhodium Group

June 2011


As US gasoline prices approached $4 a gallon in spring 2011, energy security moved to the forefront of the American political debate. Politicians have been quick to offer silver bullet solutions to lower gas prices and make America more energy secure. Houser and Mohan analyze the various recent policy proposals, from expanded offshore drilling to new vehicle efficiency standards, and compare their effects on US oil imports, US oil demand, gasoline prices, and energy expenditures over the 2011–2035 period. They find that despite recent political rhetoric, when it comes to energy security there is no policy panacea. Current proposals vary widely in the time frame, magnitude, and nature of their impact. Rather than debate whether expanded domestic production, improved efficiency, or development of oil alternatives is the right course to take, the United States needs to start moving down all three roads simultaneously to significantly alter the country’s energy trajectory. An "all of the above" strategy is required, which combines increased domestic production (important in the near term) with long-term investments in energy-efficient vehicles and oil alternatives, whether electric, natural gas, or biofuels. A carbon tax, while still a long shot politically, would deliver further energy security gains and help reduce the US deficit in the process. But even if all proposals currently on the table are adopted, the US will remain dependent on the international oil market for decades to come. Therefore Washington needs a strategy for improving the stability and reliability of that market, something missing from the current policy debate. View release event.

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