Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Energy Independence

Note: I wrote the below before I heard that the President may speak on this topic tonight in his State of the Union Address. I can only hope that he does, and our elected representatives take heed.


We all know that there is an energy crisis. All we have to do is look at our natural gas, electricity, and gasoline bills to know that we are not going to get any relief any time soon. More importantly, the United States must reduce its dependence on foreign energy sources, specifically petroleum, for our economic and social health.

One of the recommendations included in the May 2001 Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group is to increase the domestic energy supply by exploring & developing petroleum resources in protected areas. While the environmentalist groups will scream, this can be done with minimal impact given today's improved technology and procedures. It is also necessary.

The oil producing region of the Middle East is under an uneasy peace at best. Suicide bombers and the conflict in Iraq are the most visible and most reported violent incidents from the area. Alliances change without warning as Iran did during the late 70's. The Palestinians have elected a known terrorist group, Hamas, as their leaders. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is among those listed in Parade Magazine as being some of the most ruthless dictatorships known with multitudes of human right violations. Of course, there is Iran making noises about wanting to join the nuclear club even though the president of Iran is clearly advocating using any and all means to wage war on Israel to wipe it off the map. Lastly, Islamic terrorists such as al-Qaeda are constantly stirring up trouble for everyone in the region.

Whether we like it or not, the United States has a vested interest in the Middle East for national security reasons. Again, according to the May 2001 Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group, the United States relies on foreign oil for 52% of its needs. Should the flow of oil be interrupted, then the United States would have a severe impact dealt to its economy as all sectors (transportation, manufacturing, & energy generation) would be affected. Those groups that have accused the United States government with trading blood for oil are partially right as the Government has the duty to protect the economic welfare of the country. However, these same groups do not take the time to understand the reasons for the foreign policy sometimes enacted in the Middle East. For example: The first Gulf War was waged for a singular purpose, and that was to secure valuable oil resources in both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein's control. If those resources were under the control of Hussein, then he would have been able to economically cripple the United States and the rest of the world. Those groups decried the loss of life in this conflict. One wonders what they would do or say if Hussein had control of the oil fields and turned off the oil, thus depriving them of the ability to drive to the supermarket only to find empty shelves since the food couldn't be delivered...

There are billions of dollars being spent for the research into alternative energy sources. A renewed interest in nuclear power is underway, renewable energy sources such as ethanol & bio-diesel currently have limited use, hybrid & fuel cell vehicles are being tested, and wind power is starting to make an appearance. But all of these new technologies are years from being perfected and cost effective. Until these technologies are developed for widespread use, the consumption of petroleum in this country must be addressed. Thus, a domestic agenda for finding and developing petroleum resources within the borders of the United States must be enacted. So what is the hold up? To put it succinctly - Politics and Special Interest Groups.

The most powerful of these groups are the Environmentalists. Their stance is no drilling or exploration in protected areas. However, the proper use of the technology and procedures learned from various disasters and developments should reduce the risk to the environment. But there is the risk, and the Environmentalists do not trust the oil companies, and probably for good reason. With the Exxon Valdez disaster as well as other disasters in mind, they do have a powerful argument. While I'm in favor of a clean environment, some risk must be taken in order to secure these resources. Having the caribou running free is of little comfort if you are standing out in the cold because there is no heat in the house.

The other major factor in this equation are the politicians and the games they play. The mindset of politicians is usually short term, as in the next election. If their constituents do not directly benefit from a long-range policy or it is a political hot potato, they will vote against it or abstain. If the various special interest groups target key legislators with promises of campaign contributions, then the representatives will usually vote which ever way will contribute more to their campaign war chest while not getting them in trouble with their constituents. While I realize that this is a very cynical view of how our elected representatives behave, I would be extremely naive if I believed otherwise in light of numerous embarrassing political idiocies played out recently on national TV.

What is most disturbing is that while the political games are being played, our national economic security is at risk of a few nations. Worse, some of these nations may either covertly or inadvertently fund the terrorist activities which threaten our country. Think of it as the ultimate irony: We are funding our own destruction. Bin Laden's family got rich by various oil construction projects, and he has tapped into that money to fund al-Qaeda terrorist activities against the United States & other countries. So the sooner we reduce or eliminate our dependence on the Middle East and other sources of foreign energy, the better.

So now it is up to us, the Citizens of the United States, to vote our conscience & let our duly elected representatives know that a long term solution is necessary to solve the coming crisis. We have an election coming up this year. Find out where your representatives stand on this issue and vote accordingly.


James Aach said...

I certainly agree that our citizenry and our politicians could use a lot better understanding of energy issues. Here's my attempt to help: a lay person's entertaining guide to nuclear power today, good and bad. (I've worked in the industry over twenty years.) There's no cost to readers - and they seem to like it, judging by the comments they are leaving on the home page. RadDecision.blogspot.com

Teresa said...

Did you know that we are using corn in Indiana to make fuel? Aren't you proud to be a F.I.B??

Tom said...

Absolutely. There's only one thing better, a F.I.G. (Fine Indiana Gal, for all those people in Rio Linda...)

Indigo Red said...

I have been skeptical of the squished dinosaur theory of fossil fuel ever since my mother informed me that baby oil is not the product of squished babies.

There is another theory that seems more plausable, but it isn't taken seriously yet because it's of Soviet origin. Anerobic, deep-earth bacteria leave oil behind as a result of their metabolism. Short form, oil is bacteria shit and methane is bacteria farts.

I am more inclined to oil as a renewable resource than the current resource shortage story. However, I don't really want the story to get out as that would cause the price of oil to fall and that would ultimately be bad.

The higher the cost of oil, the more earnestly alternatives will be researched. Too much of our daily life depends upon oil and byproducts many of which can and should be substituted with less noxious materials. There is, for example, an automobile interior manufacturing company near my home that uses vaious vegetable oils to make dashboards that do not have the potentially cancer causing outgassing that comes with petroleum plastics.

Plus, if you are stranded without food, you can eat the car's interior!

Tom said...

If you stop to think about it, what was a source of fuel in the past couple of centuries? Give up? Whale oil.

I have heard of the creation of oil y microbes, but would like to see one of the critters first before I buy into it.

Bottom line is that we do need to get away from oil as a source of energy and other products. Whether or not drilling in protected areas is going to happen or not is beside the point. As the President stated in his State of the Union speech, we do need to be energy independent

Gaius Arbo said...

Hey, Tom, I did a critique on some of the pie-in-the-sky proponents of wind power on my site - take a look at it and tell me what you think of it.