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Should ‘Energy Interdependence’ Be the Balance We Seek?

The push for renewable energy, clean coal and shale gas in the U.S. has been linked to sustainability, job growth, national security, less dependence on foreign oil, and a number of other agendas and causes.

“Energy dependence” is often seen as the root of the other problems. The solution is to develop the new forms to move toward, and perhaps ultimately become, energy-independent – so goes the rationale of some energy development gurus.

But others say “independent” is the wrong goal – the world is small and highly connected, and the economy is global. For them, “independent” sounds isolationist and naïve. So they argue for “self sufficiency” – which occurs when, domestically, we have what we need, but we also recognize that what we have and do are influenced by the global economy and market dynamics.

I don’t think that goes far enough, however. It seems to me that “interdependence” should get a long look as a possible future state. In energy interdependence, everyone is a potential customer and supplier. This balancing of shared interests could boost sustainability, job growth, national and global security, world peace, and so on. Energy exports will become as important as imports. By necessity, everyone becomes a potential trading partner, and that may open up some political, economic and diplomatic doors that are often assumed to be closed. It already works on a local scale, for example, when a solar- or wind-powered home or business sells some of its energy back to the grid.

Some might say these are just differences in semantics. But perhaps this is really a paradigm-shifting opportunity. Where might “energy interdependence” take us?

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