Thursday, March 31, 2011

We Need A Real Energy Policy

Once again, an American president has called for a reduction in oil imports. Once again the “leader of the free world” is making an effort toward energy independence, albeit a token one, that many are skeptical can succeed. I also do not believe that it will succeed because the American people have been told that we will succeed if we want to. Former President Bush said, “We are addicted to oil” and as true addicts, do we really want to get off of this addiction?

Funny thing about this new reduction plan, just like all the others before, it is short on details. It is not a road map to oil independence like some would like and it really doesn’t point to an eventual goal like the recently announced European Union plan. A one-third reduction of our 2008 import level would bring us down to 7.4 MBD, a possibly attainable level. It would be step one in our road to weaning ourselves off of our addiction.

"There are no quick fixes ... We will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we finally get serious about a long-term policy for secure, affordable energy," Obama said.

There are no quick fixes to addiction withdrawal and currently most Americans believe that any stepping down from the existing levels of consumption should be done by those who are the most hard core users. Man, see how much more bad off they are than I am?

We could also produce more of our own oil, but how is using more of a local drug any better that using somebody else’s product? In the end we are still addicted and we will need more, and more and more… More local drilling will not solve the problem, in fact, it will only make the problem worse. Currently, we rely on foreign imports for roughly half of our daily needs. American vs. Arabian oil or American vs. Colombian coke, does it make any difference?

Previous presidents have made similar promises on energy imports, calls for cut-backs, pleas for “voluntary restraint” in oil usage. In fact, all fossil fuels are being urged to cut-back since we know what it has done to our environment. That ecological damage is now so great that it will take nearly twice as long to undo as it took to get us to the point that we recognized the damage done. From the toxic bayous in Louisiana and Texas to the massive scars of mountain top removal in Kentucky and intermittent spills along the coasts of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, the damage costs are so great that we now want to prevent the EPA from even trying.

Americans have allowed this situation to exist for far too long now. Either by ignoring the handwriting on the wall (the oil embargo, the wars in oil rich countries, etc) or believing that should we ever run out, that our technology will save us. It has now become a political football, each party has solutions to which the opposite party will object and neither can convince the American people to abide by. So on it goes, no long term goal and no short term changes in the rising status quo.

Of the four areas identified in the most recent proposal, no political party will endorse them all. More local production (drill, baby, drill) will not sit well with the democrats and environmentalists, while the fostering of natural gas vehicles will cause the cause a restructuring of the existing fuel delivery systems. More efficient cars and trucks is only thought of in the context of gas mileage and not better mass transit or high speed rail. Lastly, the alternative fuels card is aimed directly at the auto industry not any other fuel users. Oil is still used as home heating fuel in many areas of the Northeast and a changeover will cause much gnashing of teeth.

At roughly 20 million barrels a day (and half of that imported) we really should stop and think about how much of that is truly NEEDED. A great deal of it is abused, strictly by the decisions that we have made about where we choose to live and work. Those decisions are compounded by our choices of how we get between the two. How much of the travel that we do is really necessary and do we do it because it is cheap. Remember, the “drive till you qualify” method of looking for a place to live may really be a thing of the past.

Analysts and experts said Obama's goal is ambitious and that truly reforming U.S. energy use would involve sweeping changes, including possible fuel taxes to encourage Americans to change their habits, which could be politically toxic

The goal is certainly ambitious and sweeping change will be involved, but whether by governmental edict or by global demand for the remaining fossil fuel, our resulting energy needs will march to a new drum beat. The fact that it has NOT happened in our lifetime yet, in no way indicates that it will never happen. We continue to see polls where a high percentage do not approve of the sitting president’s actions/positions on energy so I feel that most of us would like to go back to the days of $.25 a gallon gas and an open road. The corporations that took us from there to here don’t want to go back and have made it difficult to do so.

The people are not wrong and the corporations are not wrong, so we will just have to blame the President. Good luck with that.

No comments: