If there has been one common thread in American politics for most of my adult life, it is that not one single president until this very moment has made a serious effort to wean our country from dependence on fossil fuels, especially oil.
This head-in-the-sand subservience to the oil industry has put us at the mercy of foreign nations and political movements that have nothing but ill will for us, in some cases extending to outright efforts to destroy our country. But while there have been some advancements in developing alternate energy sources, such as fuel cells and nuclear reactors, overall we are hopelessly mired in an insatiable national demand for oil.
It is true that Congress in the 70s, showcasing the infinite wisdom of that body in that time, essentially put an end to major exploration and development of national energy resources, including the building of refineries, thus ensuring our continued dependence on foreign sources. But that is only one element in the overall energy equation, specifically as it applies to oil.
And oddly enough we already have the ability to reduce our dependence on all sources of oil. Because the technology to substantially reduce our need for oil, perhaps by as much as half or more, and thus our dependence on foreign oil sources, has been available to us for decades.
When I was a teenager I lived outside of Troy, in upstate New York. Troy was a manufacturing town for most of its existence. It was known as the Collar City and among its more famous products were Arrow shirts. Troy also had a strong educational component in its history that successfully melded high-quality public schools with a wealth of private educational venues including Emma Willard School, Russell Sage College, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the famed engineering college.
It is RPI that figures predominantly here. Occasionally in the early 1960s, the local papers, the Troy Record and the Times Record, would publish stories and photos of RPI researchers who had developed new variations on the automobile carburetor that could produce, on average, 50 miles per gallon and more! That mind you, in a time when the average car was built like a tank and weighed nearly as much. On average!!!
Each time, a representative from one of the major automobile manufacturers would show up with a nice check for the creative and resourceful engineer, buy the patent with a promise that it would revolutionize the automobile industry, and that would be that. I clearly remember my father telling me way back then that the promised advancements would never see the light of day because it wasn't in the best interests of the car or the oil companies to restrict the use of oil.
That position should have been revised in everyone's mind in 1973 when the Arab nations imposed the oil embargo on the world, which to my mind was the real beginning of the War of Terror, as opposed of course to the War ON Terror which began post-9/11.
Unfortunately, the response was to try to buy off the Arab nations and ultimately OPEC. That was followed by a series of well publicized but in reality, half-hearted modifications that now, more than 50 years later, have us driving much lighter, supposedly safer cars, that don't get any better mileage than we were getting back in the 60s.
And here we are with the Middle East in a state of all-out war, a smug pipsqueak of a national leader in Iran openly creating hostilities and hoping to instigate an even wider conflict, but instead of being able to stand up and do what is right, we have to "consider all our options." Which means we have to make sure that no matter what else happens we don't lose our oil supply.
Of course we would still be having problems in the Middle East even if we weren't dependent on their oil. There have been problems between eastern nations and the United States ever since there was a United States. Remember the Marine hymn -- to the shores of Tripoli? Goes all the way back to President Jefferson in the early 1800s.
No, this war is about Islamic extremism, and it was coming one way or another. But due to the short-sightedness of our political leaders, the terrorists now have us over a barrel, so to speak.
If we had been using technology that had been developed and available to us for the last half-century, we wouldn't be in that position. If we had applied the technology that was developed back in the 60s, to say nothing of REALLY working to develop new technologies, especially since 1973, we would be in a position of strength and independence, not of weakness and appeasement.
And this, my friends, is our own doing. No one came in here and imposed it on us, we did it to ourselves.
Consider further if you will, our reluctance to even take full advantage of the foreign oil resources we have available. I am talking specifically of Kuwait and Iraq. The United States imports about 10 million barrels of oil per day from foreign sources, about 20 percent of which comes from the Middle East.
Well, Kuwait produces about 2.5 millions barrels per day for export, and even in slow times Iraq produces about 1.5 million barrels per day for export, which together account for 40 percent of what the United States imports. So, it makes sense to a lot of people that we be first in line for Kuwaiti and Iraqi exports, since we freed both countries from Saddam Hussein.
This doesn't imply by any means that we TAKE the oil. It merely says that since we have put our country and the lives of our citizens on the line for these countries, we should be first in line for their oil, and pay a fair price for it. When we have what we need, then other countries, starting with those who contributed to the coalitions that freed Iraq and Kuwait, and in direct proportion to their contributions, can have theirs. Sounds fair to me.
In the meantime, how about we turn a couple of government investigators loose to look up those old patents gathering dust on a shelf somewhere in Detroit? How about we dust them off, update them and start making them required for all domestically produced as well as foreign imported autos in the United States, immediately?
Within a few months, with the proper incentives, we could also have a thriving after-market version available to convert existing autos. If we can go from near zero nuclear technology in 1939 to the only country with nuclear weapons by late 1944, we certainly can take existing advancements in automobile fuel supply systems and apply them nationwide in a year.
By this time next year the world would have a glut of oil, and we could take a certain tinhorn, big mouthed dictator by the throat, and sit his preening carcass down in an adult version of permanent time out. And no one could do a thing about it.
BEST QUOTE OF THE WEEK BEGINNING JULY 16, 06
"See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s--- and it's over," George Bush to Tony Blair.
Gotta love straight talk!
Sunday, July 16, 2006