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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

19 June 2010

Reducing Our "Dependence" on Foreign Oil: A cynic's point of view

President Obama says that we must eliminate our dependence on foreign oil.


Sounds familiar. Where have I heard that before? Ohhhhh yeaaaaaah.

I clearly remember 1973: the first “gas crisis” which occurred when OPEC shut us off due to our support of Israel. I remember days of not being able to buy gasoline at all, or waiting in long lines to buy what little was allowed that day. I remember President Nixon telling us that we had to rid ourselves of our “dependence on foreign oil.” And we all agreed. In theory.

The Nixon Administration even gave us the ill-fated Project Independence, which was supposed to end our “dependence” on foreign oil by lower consumption (conservation), developing alternative energy sources, diverting money to mass transit, and switching oil power plants to coal (such a deal!).

I remember President Ford saying the same thing. And then President Carter. Then Reagan. Then Bush. Then Clinton. Then the other Bush. Did I forget anyone?

And now President Obama tells us what we’ve known for nearly 40 years. Wow. What a friggin’ GENIUS!

Okay, but when are we actually going to DO something about it?

Lowering the national speed limit to 55 mph didn’t work. People “voted with their feet” and ignored it. Building small, fuel-efficient cars didn’t work. Remember the Chevy Chevette? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. Total piece of shit. Even worse than the Chevy Vega, which was bad enough to begin with.

1976 Chevette

Remember the first Honda Civic? Teeny-tiny little piece of shit. A toy of a car, actually. It made the VW Beetle seem big and roomy and substantial. The Civic looked stupid, and you looked stupid driving it. Pictures make it look bigger than it actually is. The car was so narrow as to be comical.

Original Honda Civic

Gradually, over the years the Civic got bigger and bigger, so that the current Civic is bigger than its big brother, the original Accord. And the Accord has become huge! Automakers figured out how to make big cars that get great gas mileage, and Americans didn’t (and don’t) want to cram themselves into clown-cars.

And as gas mileage improved, Americans saw less of a need to buy flimsy little shitboxes that we perceive would be unsafe in a wreck or that can’t tow a trailer. Thus, the Honda Civic grew into a substantial car, and we keep driving like there’s no tomorrow.

Why should we stop ? And how would we? What are the alternatives to driving? The government never did fund mass transit initiatives. Here in Pensacola, Florida there is no rail service to anywhere. Local bus service is all but nonexistent. To get anywhere, you have to drive.

So we aren’t going to be giving up our cars/trucks in the near future, that’s just a fact. We have to accept it and move forward with other ways of reducing our need for oil.

We Americans have come to cherish the freedom afforded to us by our personal transportation. We can hop in and drive from coast to coast if we want…no one to stop us. In fact, it is pretty much what defines our freedom: the ability to come and go as we please. We have come to see this as a right, something that we will not surrender easily.

But back in 1973, use of our automobiles was more circumspect. You had to plan trips more carefully, with gas availability in mind. There were times when we simply could not drive. Thus, our ability to use our cars in the arbitrary way of the past was gone.

And you know what? We adapted. It wasn’t fun, but we did what we had to do.

So here’s what we should do, and do now. The tax on gasoline must increase. And not just a little, but it’s got to go up to a point where it hurts – to the point where we’re forced to cut back on our driving.

I have a perfectly good motorcycle out in the garage. It gets 55-60mpg all the time. But do I use it when I have to run errands around town? Nope, I take the air conditioned, 18mpg Jeep. Now, would I cut back on driving the Jeep if gasoline doubled in price to $5.00/gallon? You betcha! (Actually, right now gasoline in the Pensacola area is about $2.58/gallon.)

Then, with the revenue increase from the gasoline tax, “alternative energy” sources could be funded and implemented. As Americans cut back on their driving, the demand for oil (both domestic and foreign) would lessen. Gradually, we could substitute foreign oil for our own. (That’s the fantasy, anyway.)

There is no question that we must keep drilling for oil. No matter how much we want the infernal internal combustion engine to go away, that’s just not going to happen overnight. Wanting “something else” is terrific, but what? It will take decades before a suitable, practical alternative could be in place. So. Let’s be realistic. Keep drilling in the Gulf of Mexico (as safely as possible), and open up the Arctic National Wilderness Refuge (ANWR) to drilling too. We have no choice right now.

But dammit, let’s get started! We’ve heard the same bullshit from presidents for 40 years about the evils of foreign oil. One of them needs to get off his ass and DO something about it. I mean, a cynical person might get the idea that there’s something bigger going on – that in the interest of macro-economics or geo-politics or something, we really don’t want to eliminate our “dependence” on foreign oil.

But we’re not that cynical, are we?


Capt. Schmoe said...

Careful what you ask for. My disappointment cannot be overstated after hearing excerpts from the President's speech last week.

The American public wanted to hear details on how the federal government was going to handle the response to the unfolding disaster.

What they got was a continuation of the vague soundbites we have been receiving from the beginning. That and a thinly veiled justification for Cap and Trade.

Both ends of the political spectrum were dismayed with the presentation.

It would appear that the president's long term energy plan is the economic strangulation of our nation by the cap and trade proposal, as it is not just about internal combustion engines, but all of the other aspects of our lives that depend on oil.

Equally depressing was the congressional hearings held Thursday, which were nothing more that an opportunity for members of congress to obtain video footage of themselves grilling the CEO of BP and the CEO the opportunity for the CEO of BP to deny individual knowledge of anything. What tripe.

Call me cynical, however don't call me a rube.

Thanks for the post.

Bob Barbanes said...

You didn't hear the whole thing? How did you manage to avoid it? He was on every channel. I watched, forcing myself to stay awake by sticking toothpicks in my eyes. It mostly worked.

Look, America wants a RESPONSE! to this disaster. America wants a SOLUTION! But America is not going to get one. Why? BECAUSE THERE AIN'T ONE. None of the major oil companies are prepared to handle a spill of this magnitude. They have admitted as much.

The ONLY way of stopping this leak is to drill a relief well. "Best estimates" were that it could be completed by mid-August. Let's hope they were being pessimistic.

BP *may* be able to put some sort of cap on the outlet by which they can recover some amount of the oil - people have estimated as much as 90%, but I think that's probably unrealistic. Who knows. In any event, we'll still have oil leaking into the gulf until the relief well is completed.

Meanwhile, we have oil washing up sporadically and irregularly along a 200 mile expanse of coastline. What would we have "the federal government" do? The technology to deal with this hasn't been invented yet.

And THAT is the crime. These oil companies have spent billions and billions in their quest to find and produce oil, and have spent virtually nothing on dealing with a catastrophic spill. That must change. If Keven Costner's idea works, bring it on! Whatever.

The American people must DEMAND that the U.S. develop a realistic energy policy that shifts us away from fossil fuel. If Obama cannot lead the way in this, then let's vote his ass out and get someone in there who'll do it. It's not just too late to get started...it's FAR too late.