North American energy independence

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Imported crude oil as a percent of US consumption.

North American energy independence is a stated goal of those who believe that the North American nations - the United States, Canada and Mexico - must eliminate their reliance on oil purchased from outside the continent. A related, less absolute, policy may be called North American energy security. In 2012 in an editorial in a Canadian newspaper, Mexican president elect Enrique Peña Nieto, called North American energy security a "common goal" of Canada and Mexico.[1]

The benefits are argued to be the reduction of North America's energy dependence on unstable regions such as the Middle East and South America and limiting oil imperialism to the North American Free Trade Area, reducing exposure to terrorism abroad; lower balance of trade and foreign exchange stresses on the U.S. economy in an era when suppliers may begin to price oil in euros; the development of renewable energy sources to displace fossil fuels; and the promotion of energy conservation and technology (such as insulation, green roof, and lighting efficiency) exportable to energy-poor nations.

The Apollo Alliance, a coalition of businesses, strategists, labor unions, and environmental organizations is advocating a ten-point plan for energy independence. Another group is the Set America Free Coalition formed by prominent individuals and non-profit organizations concerned about the security and economic implications of America’s growing dependence on foreign oil.

In a 2012 poll of energy experts by Foreign Policy magazine, almost two-thirds of respondents said energy independence was not a sensible goal.[2]


American political rhetoric includes the phrase "foreign oil" as something of which the United States must reduce or eliminate its imports. This is related to the general perception that the major global oil exporting countries are either openly hostile to US foreign policy and interests (Iran, Venezuela, and formerly Iraq), are former or potential future rivals (Russia) or are unsavoury allies (Saudi Arabia). However, most of American imports of oil come not from these countries, but from Canada and Mexico. As well Canada and Mexico export natural gas, uranium, and electricity to the United States. At the same time oil is globalized, fungible commodity: even if the United States does not buy oil from Iran, a price disruption cause by a drop in Iranian supplies would still impact American consumers. During the early 2010s American demand for energy dropped as a result of the Great Recession, and American production of oil and especially natural gas increase with new shale gas finds coming into production. Foreign dependence is not the only factor in North American energy politics, however; environmental concerns around land and water pollution as well as greenhouse gases related to are also a matter of controversy. In Canada and Mexico there is also the concern not to have energy policy dictated by the United States, as well as tension over American ownership of energy companies.


Programs to limit US energy interests in Canada and Mexico[edit]

In 1937 Mexico passed a constitutional amendment to nationalize its oil industry, which led to the creation of Pemex, the national oil company. There have been several proposals to privatize Pemex since, but they have never come to fruition as many Mexicans fear foreign control of this strategic industry.

The 1957 Canadian election as fought partially in response to the 1956 Pipeline Debate which concerned whether or not the government should allow a U.S.-owned company to build a trans-Canadian gas pipeline and whether or not the route should be entirely within Canada or partly through the United States. The right-leaning Progressive Conservatives and leftist Co-operative Commonwealth Federation opposition parties opposed American involvement in the pipeline while the Liberal government supported it. The Liberals were defeated in the 1957 election.

In 1973 Canada created its own state energy company Petro-Canada. It began operations in 1976, though it bought assets from private companies rather than seizing them as in many other countries. In 1980 the National Energy Program was launched to create oil self-sufficiency within Canada. It attempted to use tax incentives to discourage oil exports (mostly from Western Canada, primarily the province of Alberta) to the US, and redirect these towards to the oil importing provinces of Eastern Canada. The Foreign Investment Review Agency was also created to screen foreign (mostly US) takeovers of Canadian companies. These policies were bitterly opposed by the provincial government of Alberta, and were repealed and reserved during the Conservative government of 1984-1993 which sought closer economic ties with the US, including the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement of 1988.

Bush's 2006 "Addicted to oil" speech[edit]

In his 2006 State of the Union Address, George W. Bush used the phrase addicted to oil, a phrase widely discussed in the media.[3][4][5]


U.S. President Barack Obama has repeatedly stated that the U.S. has begun "freeing ourselves from foreign oil" including during his 2012 reelection speech.[6] Canadian observers have noted that his usage of "foreign" does not include Canada. Yet he has not yet approved the Keystone XL pipeline because of domestic environmental concerns over water quality as well as the general antipathy of the environmental movement to pipeline building, and the production practices in the source (the Athabasca Oil Sands).

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