AMERICA got an early Christmas gift this year with the news that as a nation we're about to become energy independent -- at least in terms of fossil fuels.
The Energy Department has reported that in 2012 America will produce 83 percent of all the energy it needs to power its automobiles and airplanes this year and is on course to be 100 percent energy independent next year.
And that should be a sign of relief to us all.
For now, at least, we're not as linked to unstable oil reserves in the Middle East or elsewhere. The World Energy Outlook issued by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in November forecast that the U.S. will replace Russia as the biggest natural gas producer in 2015 and surpass Saudi Arabia as the biggest oil producer in 2017, bringing the total U.S. energy self-sufficiency rate up to as high as 97 percent by 2035.
But there are two caveats to this good news.
One is that our energy independence is being driven in large part by new technological breakthroughs that allow drilling for oil in challenging areas and difficult geological formations. It's expensive, and the environmental damages that such drilling might cause are not yet fully known.
We need to know the costs and the dangers and take steps to keep the production rolling along with minimal damage to our pocketbooks and our environment.
And second, now is not the time to quit conserving. Every gallon of fuel we don't consume now, is a gallon we can save for later generations and more taxing times.
But enjoy the early Christmas. Oil production peaked in 1970 and its imports have exceeded domestic production since the early 1990s.
We've given ourselves and our children a gift that will keep on giving.