甚至连提议中的清洁能源标准(Clean Energy Standard)的民主党草拟者都预测，到2035年，煤炭发电将占到美国总发电量的五分之一。天然气、核能和可再生能源将包揽剩下的份额。没有一种能源会占据主导地位。
即使钻探技术的进步开辟了新的油气来源，我们也无法仅仅通过钻探来实现能源独立。无党派倾向的美国能源情报署(Energy Information Administration)称，到2035年，美国和加拿大的石油日产量总和将达到1200万桶。产量的增加仅能覆盖当前石油消费的三分之二。
全球正在关注美国，而此刻，为了制订出多样化且可持续的能源政策，美国的政治领导人步履维艰。在此次访问中，奥巴马打出“全面”(all of the above)的口号，来描述其能源政策。这可能是一种将不同愿景融合在一起的真正努力。但问题变得如此政治化，这使达成共识变得不太可能，特别是在动荡的大选之年。
President Obama is on the road.
Today is the second day of his tour of four states – Oklahoma, Nevada, Ohio and New Mexico – crucial to US energy production. His journey is well timed, coming amid renewed fears of rising oil prices. His choice of locations is smart, too, for it shows the president is well aware that we need a comprehensive approach to US energy.
As energy secretary in the Clinton administration, I came to realise this country needs to promote all types of energy production. Mr Obama is right to put us on this course but the US Congress makes his mission challenging, if not impossible. There is plenty of rhetorical agreement about “energy independence” but when it comes to the specifics – pipelines, drilling, efficiency standards and renewable energy tax policies – consensus is elusive.
One side touts the benefits of clean energy, calling for government support – federal subsidies, tax credits and stringent air quality, and fuel economy regulations – for renewable sources. The other takes an equally strident approach in favour of nuclear plants, unrestricted oil and gas production, opposition to efficiency standards and air quality regulations, and cutting investments in clean energy technology.
The question for both Republicans and Democrats is whether such entrenched positions will prolong achievement of the ultimate goal that both sides agree on – energy independence and sustainable economic growth in the long term.
There ought to be sufficient opportunities, given the vast resources that are available, to find common ground.
Even the Democratic drafters of a proposed Clean Energy Standard envisioned that coal would represent up to a fifth of total electricity production in 2035. Natural gas, nuclear and renewable energy sources would make up the rest. No one source would dominate.
Even as advances in drilling techniques open up new sources of oil and gas, we cannot drill our way to energy independence. Combined US and Canadian oil production will reach 12m domestic barrels a day by 2035, according to the non-partisan Energy Information Administration. This increase in production would still cover only two-thirds of our current oil consumption.
The situation for natural gas is slightly better, with the EIA predicting the US will become a net natural gas exporter by 2021. Natural gas provides a relatively clean and inexpensive option, and it will play a larger role in our overall energy mix. But it is still an exhaustible resource, subject to the whims of international commodity markets, and carries potentially high environmental costs.
While the US is currently enjoying the lowest natural gas prices in more than a decade, we forget that as recently as 2008, prices were four times as high as they are today. We cannot let our optimism about reserves in Pennsylvania, North Dakota and elsewhere stop efforts to diversify and clean our energy supply.
The evolving demand for finite resources will continue to be driven by the needs of emerging economies. Diversification of America’s energy mix will be essential to hedge against supply disruptions caused by geopolitical tension as well as price fluctuations beyond US control. And while natural gas is abundant today, other resources with which America is blessed – sun, wind, the heat under the ground – are effectively infinite.
The world is watching the US as its political leaders struggle to develop a diversified and sustainable energy policy. On his trip, the president is touting the slogan “all of the above” to describe his energy policy. It may be a genuine effort to bring together competing visions. But the issue is so politicised that reaching a consensus is unlikely, especially in a volatile election year.
When he returns, the ideal approach for the president would be to work out a compromise bill with Congressional leaders. Unfortunately, the Republicans seem more committed to having President Obama fail than co-operating on an issue of national importance.
Partisanship and discourse are very much a part of our political heritage but there comes a time when we must rise above our differences and serve the best interest of our nation. That time has certainly arrived on enacting an “all of the above” national energy policy.
The writer is a former US energy secretary, governor of New Mexico and US ambassador to the UN