For any nation to be self-reliant, it needs to produce enough energy, food and vital items to sustain the population and keep people secure. Those are the bare essentials for survival in the modern era. But the joyful participation in world trade and the global economy has caused some nations to rely on others for basic needs. The growing awareness of this national vulnerability has been one of the factors in the global protectionism movement. As it stands today, the mighty United States of America falls short in terms of self-reliance.
Despite the growing green energy movement, the United States is a staunchly petroleum-based consumer. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2015 Americans utilized more than 7 billion barrels of petroleum products or almost 20 million barrels per day. Unfortunately, the U.S. only produced only about 3.3 million barrels of crude oil in 2015. One 42-gallon barrel of crude can be converted into 31 gallons of gas and diesel fuel. In terms of self-reliance, the United States suffers a daily deficit of almost 5 million barrels or 1.8 billion barrels per year. Although the U.S. is grossly dependent on foreign oil, the country’s primary importer is Canada (40 percent). The mutually beneficial development of new oil pipelines between the nations may make America far less dependent on OPEC countries that provide 31 percent of U.S. petroleum.
Food For All
The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture reports that in 2013, Americans consumed 635 billion pounds of food products — about 2,000 pounds per person. That number may be slightly higher today. In terms of self-reliance, the diverse population imports a wide range of foreign-grown foods. The good news (in terms of self-reliance) is that the nation enjoys a wide range of climates and can effectively produce just about everything.
The United States has more than 2 million farms, spanning more than 900 million acres. The country’s exports exceed its need to import agriculture. Americans have little to fear in terms of a food shortage.
Little Known Fear Factors
John Moody published an opinion piece called, “We have a national security crisis. Let’s do nothing” that highlighted a rare fact about America’s dependence on foreign entities. Following the global trade shift that sent American companies abroad to capitalize on inexpensive labor and fewer regulations, the domestic sources of “Rare Earth Elements” (REE) dried up. Moody points to an important report by the U.S. Geological Survey that the country has reached 100 percent REE dependence and China has emerged as a primary producer.
REEs are important elements necessary to operate many electronic devices. In terms of self-reliance, some of these elements include components for missile systems. The U.S. has also come under foreign thumbs for the manganese needed to manufacture impact-resistant steel. You know, the stuff in tanks and other armored vehicles.
The faltering self-reliance is not because America doesn’t have these REEs. Instead, several mines closed and moved for higher profits. The last remaining REE mine, Molycorp, was denied a government bailout in 2015 and went bankrupt. Another caveat to America’s lack of REE mining . . . they’re a key component of solar panels.
Farmers do a tremendous job of keeping America self-reliant, but they can’t do it alone. Domestic oil production and other things like REEs have the country vulnerable and dependent on some unfriendly foreign entities. The natural resources to achieve self-reliance are available. However, the political will to make a hard shift in domestic policy toward independence has become an obvious need. It may be all about the profits now, but if foreign suppliers ever cut us off, it will be all about scrambling to meet supply and demand. Taking action now may be the only way to prevent such an economic crisis.