The failure to provide our nation (indeed, the world) with an effective, realistic and timely new energy policy, might well go down in history as one of the greatest failures of modern civilization.
If you think this is hyperbole, and you think oil at $130/barrel is outrageous…imagine what the last barrel on earth will cost. A vision out of sight and time? Well, likely only a few generations away. And, if I hear one more politician rant how “important it is to start weaning ourselves from fossil fuels”, I will totally flip out – because while leaders of both parties cleverly “talk the talk” – they have failed us. That’s the bottom line, pure and simple.
There is absolutely nothing new in what you are going to read here – and that is exactly why it is so upsetting. There is no gas “crisis” that has suddenly appeared. There are no “surprises” to $4/gallon gas. Everything – everything—that has precipitated this rise in price has been known for at least decades. So why is there so much shock and discussion?
Consider these facts:
• First and foremost, oil is a finite product! It was never if we were going to run out of oil…it was always when. The real problem is that no one ever seemed to address that issue, as long as oil remained cheap. Gutless leaders avoided telling us that; the oil companies and SUV automakers stonewall it; and consequently, Americans just don’t get it! And of course now, the leadership of our country is in the hands of two former oil company executives – both of whom lead us to believe we can “drill our way” out of this situation. That may be good for their compatriots in the oil industry, but it is no solution to this problem. In fact, it is counter-productive in a variety of ways.
• This irrelevant talk of reducing the gas tax; and Congress berating oil executives merely rearranges the deck chairs on a Titanic disaster that looms ahead. It makes for good media copy, but is not a solution in itself. And ending additions to the national petroleum reserve is a band-aid on cancer.
• The major portion of world oil production has always been in the hands of despotic, uncaring, unreliable countries. It will be to the end. Nothing new here.
• Additionally, the oil company executives actually are accurate when they state current (and future) pricing is essentially the result of demand exceeding supply (even with some speculative excess built in). That’s good for them…bad for everyone else.
• Natural disasters, such as Katrina, or other calamities, which disrupt supplies, are common occurrences around the world. This is not new.
• The last Energy Bill had strong incentives for more drilling…and meager incentives for alternate energy, and limited emphasis on conservation. Again, crafted with the direction of the Bush team (many ex-oil executives), it provides significant additional handouts to the oil companies, which is exactly what we do not need. The bill was widely reported – no surprises here either. The only possible surprise, to me, is the lack of outrage.
Though not a “surprise”, it may interest you to recall that 10 years ago oil was selling for about $13/barrel, about 1/10 its price now. From then to now, there has not been a single leader who created a competent, comprehensive energy policy which could have avoided our current distress…and future damage. We have heard all the talk about the “urgent need” and creation of a Manhattan-type program to bring mankind into a less fossil-dependant condition. But, it has not, and is not, being done. Just lots of talk. Assigning blame. And wringing of hands. “Alas and alack”. Crocodile tears. And useless unfulfilled promises. Worse yet, even if such a program were to be started, it could still be decades before it is in place and operative. So, tighten your seatbelts…it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Regarding a Manhattan-type program, it is interesting to note the dynamics of that effort.
Though atomic research had begun in the 30’s in a primitive way, it was not till 1942 when Roosevelt and the Allied leaders realized the importance of developing an atomic bomb. Within a few short years, an amazing team was assembled…research was completed…fission piles were created…. thirty different research sites were involved…three secret scientific cities were built…and the bomb was made. It was done before Germany could develop one of its own; and ended the war with Japan. That was leadership! The Manhattan Project cost $2 Billion (in 1940’s dollars); equivalent to $24 Billion in today’s dollars. That’s about 6 months of Exxon’s NET profits this year. Meanwhile, alternate energy development goes on underfunded, disparate in its organization, and without cohesive or coordinated direction.
So, where are those kinds of leaders today who could lead us out of this current morass, and future danger? Apparently nowhere. At least not one who is capable of taking charge of the problem to aggressively mobilize our resources and human creativity; and put on a full court press that will lead us into a cleaner, safer, less costly long term energy solution. If one should emerge, I would urge you to elect him/her quickly, because time is shorter than we imagine. Hello…is anyone listening?