Quick, what country is the No. 1 oil source for the United States? It's not Saudi Arabia, Mexico or Venezuela. How about Iraq, then? Please. The answer is 2.12 million barrels a day of oil are shipped to this country by our largest trading partner, Canada.
"There has been until recently an underestimation of the potential of Canada to address our oil needs," Spencer Abraham, who retired as U.S. energy secretary in January after four years in the Bush administration, told Bloomberg News last week. "It's a better alternative than the instability in other parts of the world."
The significance of increased supply of Canadian oil should not be underestimated because it has reduced dependence on Middle East sources. But Canada is not the long-term solution.
There's more evidence that the world's oil supply is shrinking. Last week, Saudi officials told The Financial Times newspaper that the gap between demand and oil production is growing wider. The Saudis said if trends continue it will become "extremely difficult" for current producers to pump enough oil to meet demand over the next 10 or 15 years.
The United States still needs a transformative energy policy, one that moves consumers away from oil. People have already been doing this by purchasing hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles, but we can do more just by shifting our focus toward less oil consumption, instead of oil production.
There are already technological innovations that show how a plug-in hybrid car could reach 500 miles per gallon of gasoline. Similar ventures demonstrate the potential for hydrogen, ethanol and other alternative fuels.
But the first step toward energy independence is the recognition that the world's oil supply will soon decline. And it's about time: The price of oil -- hanging around $60 a barrel -- is a reason alone to shift to a 21st century fuel.
© 2005 Seattle Post-Intelligencer