The Rhetoric of "Independence from Oil"

Since it's Independence Day in America tomorrow, I thought it'd be fun to take a brief look at the meme of independence from oil. We certainly have heard the phrase from plenty different groups in the past few years. But is anyone really calling for "independence from oil"? What are some of the groups promoting this worldview? What about the completely different phrase "independence from foreign oil"?

We'll start with a call for actually becoming independent from oil from the "Independence From Oil Day" folks. Unfortunately, while the group's "Declaration of Independence from Oil" is a nice quirky call to get off of oil, the Day came and went on July 3rd of last year, and the website hasn't been updated since. Becoming free of oil is not a one-day activity, folks. Still, the attitude on display here comes closest to achieving true oil independence.

Then there's the Foreign Oil Independence League (FOIL). This site has a more post-9/11 protectionist attitude, saying we should eliminate our dependence on oil from terrorist-supporting Gulf States. FOIL focuses on letting elected officials know its supporters are fed up with high gas prices and oil from foreign sources. FOIL promises "weapons grade reality - from patriotically correct billboards, to hard-hitting ads, to creative (and abrasive) public relations."

And what about the history of the phrase oil independence? Well, how about we take a brief look at the words of President Nixon, who said in his 1974 State of the Union speech: "As we move toward the celebration 2 years from now of the 200th anniversary of this Nation's independence, let us press vigorously on toward the goal I announced last November for Project Independence. 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 to provide our jobs, to heat our homes, and to keep our transportation moving." Project Independence didn't work, of course. But that didn't stop following presidents from attempting (and not exactly succeeding at) similar plans nor President Bush proclaimed in his 2003 SOTU address that one of his goals was, "to promote energy independence for our country, while dramatically improving the environment." We'll see in thirty year if his statement seems as absurd as Nixon's does to us now.

These are just some of the calls for energy independence that have been heard over the last thirty-plus years. If you've got others to share, feel free to do so in the comments.

[Sources: Independence From Oil, FOIL,,, the White House]

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