The Slippery, Iridescent Hues of Our Sputnik (May 21, 2010)

There was a time I supported off-shore drilling. It wasn’t that long ago—as recently as Thursday, in fact.

I did not support drilling as an affront to global warming’s authenticity or its supporters. I supported it because drilling will accomplish two things I value. First, expanded drilling would help reduce our reliance on foreign oil imported from hostile producers. Of the top 20 oil producing nations (the US is number 3) only three others can be considered strategically secure. In 2008 we imported nearly six million barrels of oil per day from OPEC. At today’s price of $70.65 per barrel that’s almost $200 billion per year to OPEC alone.  Theses facts create foreign policy obligations that cost of the lives of our sons and daughters on the sandy fields of battle. Beyond the $70.65 per barrel, we must understand that the real currency of oil is the blood of our soldiers. Our problematic petroleum paradigm limits the tools our nation’s leaders have at their disposal as they weigh the economic considerations of the retaliatory tools available to those with whom we deal.

Secondly, even if we immediately Harry Pottered ourselves into a world in which the US needed to import no oil, the oil we have could be used to sell to other nations still undertaking the transformation. The money reaped from such sales could fund health care or education. American resources funding American needs.

Today, I view the cost as too high. Whatever benefit we reap from increased drilling we must now look at those well-heads as potential sources of disaster. What will be the final cost of the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico? No matter how good the technology gets we must always consider that another spill is a foregone conclusion, for as long as humans build them, as long as humans man them, as long as humans design them, there will be human error.

Our greed for low oil prices and perpetuation of the petroleum status quo is terrorizing American families up and down the Gulf Coast. Predictions now suggest that the Gulf Current will carry the slick up the Eastern seaboard. What message might we glean from a photo of the tidal basin painted in the slippery, iridescent hues of sunlight on oil?

The effects to America’s natural playgrounds and the wildlife that reposed in their confines bear the brunt of our oil addiction like bruised spouses and children of violent alcoholics.

Today I don’t care about global climate change (I’m in limbo on that on the best of days). I care about change. Not Obama’s change but our change. Do we have the courage to create a new vision for America and embark on the journey to create it? Many have suggested an Apollo-like effort to bring renewable energy to America. May I suggest a better first step?  The US imports about 62% of its oil and about 70% of the oil we use goes to gasoline.  I believe an Apollo-like effort to get every single gasoline powered automobile off the road in ten years is within our capabilities.

The US spent $7 billion of our own money on Gulf War I: what if that money had been invested in Ford, GM and Chrysler with such an objective? Where might the US auto industry be today if twenty years ago we had invested in a program that would have required that 100% of the autos on the road be replaced with new ones? Where might they be in the global market if they were industry leaders in non-fossil fuel propulsion? Where might we be if our foreign policy objectives in the Middle East weren’t saddled with our gluttony?

Add to the money that could be invested in such a project the estimated $22.6 billion in clean up expenses that may be needed to resurrect the Gulf Coast.  We always seem to find the funds for reaction to tragedy but can seldom pry the funds from our clutches to facilitate proactive solutions.

This plan creates jobs, removes foreign policy handcuffs, slows the flow of money to governments sponsoring terrorism, supports our troops, and negates a need for foreign oil.

Policy hurdles would need answers: how will American families afford new vehicles, particularly low-income families? What about those who own and want to maintain classic vehicles? What about long-haul transportation? What happens to the old vehicles—can retrofits be part of the answer? These are but a few valid concerns but policy answers exist when smart people ask the right questions and leadership is provided to guide the process.

Is the specter of another spill any less daunting to our economy and to the lives of our brethren than sputnik circling overhead?  Yet who in American politics has the gumption to propose such a grandiose plan?  Such a plan will not emanate from the masses, but a new leader should be able to capitalize on patriotic fervor, pro-American policies and healthy dose of disgust to launch such a project.

The time has arrived for every American to participate in promulgating all that is possible in this great nation.

Published in: on May 22, 2010 at 12:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

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