Energy Independence Just a Dream

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Energy Independence Just a Dream

MARIETTA, Ga. -- "Anybody who says the world is going to be powered by solar cells -- it’s not going to happen. The numbers speak for themselves."

That is the view of a senior ExxonMobil official who added that most of the solutions to oil and gasoline dependence being developed won't be nearly enough to impact the country's use of today's largest energy sources. In a speech at Marietta College here Wednesday evening, covered by the Marietta Times, Mark Skolnik, senior executive in downstream business development and the portfolio department of ExxonMobil, cited numbers from the Natural Petroleum Council that predict the demand for energy will be 50 percent higher by 2030 and that the highest growth area will be oil and gas.

Renewable energy sources like wind, solar and biofuels will make up only a small percentage of the total energy used, said Skolnik, according to the Marietta Times report.

"The point is as much and as fast as they're going to grow, wind and solar will be making 3 or 4 percent of the world's energy at maximum in 25 years," he predicted.

Ethanol likely won't make a big impact on the dependence, either, despite a government mandate that will require 10 percent ethanol in gasoline, Skolnik told students, professors and community members. He said that mandate can't be met currently, according to the Times.

"It takes 20 percent of corn produced to make 2 percent of gasoline right now," he reportedly said. "If you want 10 percent, it will take 100 percent of the corn and you can see the ramifications of that. The good thing is that being unable to meet that mandate will drive technology so that it might become possible."

Skolnik echoed a televised report last week by ABC News "20/20" correspondent John Stossel, who in a "Guide to Politics," noted U.S. presidents have been promising "energy independence" for the past 35 years -- even showing video clips of Presidents from George W. Bush to Richard M. Nixon making speeches about weaning the country off foreign oil. "Jimmy Carter, saying that achieving energy independence was the ‘moral equivalent of war,’ called for ‘the most massive peacetime commitment of funds ... to develop America's own alternative.’ By the year 2000, he said, 20 percent of America's energy would come from solar power," said Stossel, who pointed out that today solar provides less than one-tenth of total energy consumed in the U.S.

Current Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama also have pledged to "set America on path to energy independence" (Obama) and “achieve strategic independence by 2025” (McCain).

Stossel pointed out that these promises feed on the public’s ignorance of basic economics and the global marketplace. Stossel calls these promises "The Idiocy of Energy Independence," in an online editorial seen by clicking here

Back in Marietta, Skolnik of ExxonMobil shared with the group some of the developing technologies that will aid in energy efficiency and preserving enough oil for future generations.

There are about 3 trillion barrels of conventional oil still in the ground that can be extracted, and possibly another trillion that would be more expensive to extract, said Skolnik, quoting statistics from the U.S. Geological Survey.

"We actually have quite a bit of oil in the ground left to recover, probably enough for several hundreds of years, but we have to manage that asset and government has to play a critical role in that management," said the executive in the Times report.

Skolnik also spoke about the importance of open, international free trade and cautioned against using oil as a political weapon.

"Anyone who thinks the United States should consider energy independence, to be independent of foreign energy sources, is wrong," he said. "Quite honestly it's a dream and it can't and won't happen. What we need is energy security."