Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ending Our Affair With Oil

As I filled up my truck this morning, and moaned as the pump went over $60 before stopping, I thought about the real problem of petroleum in this country. We rely on it!

Let me elaborate. Since I was a child I was taught that petroleum reserves are not bottomless and that some day they would run out. Since then I have heard little about finding other power sources and conserving the rare petroleum for its beneficial uses instead of just burning it. I guess it’s easier to just keep looking for more oil and pumping it out than to realistically approach the problem and find a renewable source of energy.

I remember driving through West Texas a few months ago and seeing the rows of beautiful wind turbines dotting the landscape. These graceful machines turned slowly in the persistent Texas wind generating power for much of the area. Though I have heard complaints that some birds and bats are killed when they run into the turbines, I remember the occasional bodies of birds that died running into skyscrapers and even my backyard window. Though I do not advocate cruelty to animals, I think the argument is pretty weak against wind power from a humane standpoint. Would birds falling from the sky from pollution be better?

As I walk in my backyard, I look up at the bright Texas sun and wonder, why isn’t every square foot of rooftop in our city covered with solar collectors or solar cells? Photo-voltaics have come a long way and it would be a significant investment but one that would pay off in both power and cleaner air. Why is it not being done?

I suspect most people see these alternatives as something “in the future” and with the help of the oil and coal companies they will always remain there. What is needed is a voice that will say these things are possible now. They work and the can eliminate much of the problem with petroleum.

In the Western US proposals for geothermal power are gathering dust because the government has put them on a slow track when it comes to the Bureau of Land Management and the environmental impact studies that are needed. Why? Big oil and coal bought and paid for the current administration along with the defense industry and they want to get every penny of their investment back before they will allow anything to interfere. Clean inexhaustible geothermal works very well in other countries, yet in the US it’s still a pipe dream.

So what is to be done? First the next president has to take the matter seriously. That means turning a blind eye toward the big money from oil that will try to sway him or her into inaction. It means a Manhattan Project for energy independence for the US and that will cost a lot of money. Where can they get it? Consider the cost of the Iraq War. That war, which we all know is to protect oil and gas interests, could be ended and the money turned toward fast tracking alternative energy solutions. It would not only get us out of Iraq, but would wean us from our dependence on the Middle East and in turn get us out of their politics. It’s a win-win situation.

Most of the terrorists are upset with our meddling in Middle Eastern affairs. We do that strictly because of the oil, no matter what the politicians claim. We stop meddling and they might stop seeing us as the Great Satan. Again we all win.

So how can you or I help? First as soon as practical I am dumping my truck in favor of a hybrid. My partner already has one and his gas bills are negligible. Second I can support candidates who believe energy independence is not just a slogan but an achievable goal. Third, I can educate my friends about the reality of the situation and get them enthused into action as well.

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