Oil independence has been the holy grail of American energy policy for years, but now experts in the field believe the United States could achieve the goal as early as 2030 - if the correct policy decisions are made.

Robert Greene, a fellow at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, believes that oil independence does not consist of halting oil importation from foreign powers, but rather reducing the amount of oil imported so that it no longer has a stranglehold on the economy, reports Ward's Auto. In short, he defines oil independence as functional independence, as opposed to complete freedom from oil.

In a meeting with the Society of Automotive Engineers, Green explained that oil independence is "achieving a state where your consumption actions are not subject to restraining or directly influenced by others as consequence of the need for oil."

Greene believes that significantly reducing dependence on oil will allow the U.S. to be cushioned from the actions of OPEC countries and the effects of natural fluctuations in the commodity market that affect the price of oil and thereby the American economy.

Greene is convinced that by reducing oil consumption to levels below 1% of national GDP, oil independence could be achieved by 2030. George W. Bush's 'Energy Independence and Security Act' (EISA) is an important step for the U.S., and according to Greene will move the the country "closer to energy independence". EISA was responsible for requiring more stringent fuel efficiency standards on light-vehicles, and Greene believes that if this same policy is applied to medium and heavy vehicles the goal of reducing oil consumption to less than 1% of GDP will be within sight.

Other commentators, such as Peter Kiernan of the World Politics Review, are not convinced about the reality of oil independence and its benefits, especially the supposed changes to foreign policy it will bring about and the associated freedom from control by Middle Eastern countries.

Kiernan points out that OPEC countries also conduct business with almost every major economy on the planet including the U.S. Even if the U.S. were to achieve oil independence, this would have little effect when examined in the context of the global economy and American relations with other states - nations such as China and Japan are significantly more dependent on foreign oil than the U.S.

However, Kiernan does advocate the reduction of oil consumption just as Robert Greene does: via sensible domestic and foreign policy and legislation to reduce consumer dependence on oil. Whether or not oil independence is achievable for the U.S. still remains in contention, with opinions divided amongst experts even today, but as long as the goal is there intelligent people will be working to reach it.