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U.S. energy independence by 2020? Uhh, haven’t we heard this before?

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When seeking public office — especially the highest in the land — candidates can promise anything. Too often, post-election, those promises are conveniently relegated to obscurity, or the new president quickly finds that, no matter how well-intentioned, he can personally do little to effect major change. Such has been the case, nigh on to 40 years, for energy independence.

“I know … that talk can be cheap. You can say anything.” No truer words have been uttered by a politician than these by presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

When seeking public office — especially the highest in the land — candidates can promise anything. Too often, post-election, those promises are conveniently relegated to obscurity, or the new president quickly finds that, no matter how well-intentioned, he can personally do little to effect major change.

Oh, maybe a Supreme Court appointment here, a war launched there, but when it comes to history-making accomplishment, well, there’s that obstreperous group called Congress, which may or may not cooperate, not to mention worldwide economic/market forces that can toss a monkey wrench into things.

But hey, why worry about realities when hustling votes? Promise ‘em anything, baby — just get me elected.

Back to Candidate Romney, whose “cheap talk” quote was followed by an outright fairy tale: “By the end of my second term, I make this commitment: We will have North American energy independence. We won’t have to buy oil from Venezuela and the Middle East. We’re gonna be independent.”

Anyone halfway grounded in reality knows that, barring an alien spaceship landing on the White House lawn and handing over technology for limitless energy, it just ain’t gonna happen.

Absent Armageddon in the Mideast, tankers in 2020 will still be schlepping oil westward to the U.S., this country will in all likelihood be consuming more oil/gasoline/diesel than ever — and most certainly paying more for it.

Yes, the U.S. will doubtless be producing more of its own energy, whether oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, solar/wind, biofuels. But as we’ve seen for decades, usage pretty much equates to production — and usage is still predominantly for transportation that is primarily petroleum based.

U.S. oil production is at an eight-year high, and in 2011 we cut oil/petroleum imports by 1 million barrels per day (while shipping millions of gallons of petroleum products to the highest bidders overseas). Stricter fuel economy standards are slowly but surely increasing efficiency of cars/trucks.

But our energy appetite is voracious — and Mideast oil is, for the foreseeable future, the easiest way to feed that hunger.

Every president, all the way back to Richard Nixon, has promised to get the U.S. in position to tell OPEC to stuff it.Hear an outraged Nixon following the 1970s Arab oil embargo that brought the country almost to a standstill: “Let this be our national goal: At the end of this decade, in the year 1980, the United States will not be dependent on any other country for the energy we need.”

Didn’t happen. Ditto for Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2. We just used more and more.

Most recently, in 2008, then Senator Barack Obama made a campaign promise that, if elected president, he’d end U.S. imports of Mideast oil within a decade. With almost four years of that decade gone, that pledge, too, is more fairy tale than reality.

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