It’s time for everything |

It’s time for everything

Amid the finger-pointing, blame-shifting and wallet-emptying that have come following the Summer of Expensive Gas, it’s time for a humble suggestion: Let’s do everything.The Birkenstock set has for years urged Americans to drive less, drive smaller cars, and seek alternative forms of heating, cooling, and lighting. They also believe in hydrogen power for cars, which would be a great idea if it didn’t take almost as much energy to produce as it can provide for internal combustion. The Birkenstockers also still believe in things like electric cars, which are a lot like leprechauns, except electric cars are bigger and carry a whole lot more deadly chemicals on board.Meanwhile, the Old Guard has maintained that there still isn’t a cheaper, more reliable, and potentially cleaner source of energy than good old-fashioned dinosaur goo. The only problem is that we need to pump more of it, and, by the way, we need more places to refine it.Well, the Birkenstockers are right (except for the stuff about electric cars). And so is the Old Guard. But in Red/Blue America (which is more a creation of partisan dingbats than regular people, I suspect), people on either side of an argument can’t possibly see the logic or goodness of their opponents’ positions, so we end up with finger-pointing, blame-shifting and wallet-emptying.But with gasoline persistently hovering at and above $3 per gallon, a lot of people are starting to feel the pinch. Maybe they’re feeling it enough to demand the following:• We need more oil and more places to refine it. This country has the strongest economy in the world right now, and the way it got there was cheap energy. And that means oil and natural gas.There have been any number of times over the past quarter-century when the overall strength of the American economy dragged the rest of the world along with it. To keep that mighty engine humming, we need reasonably priced oil and more places to refine it.That means we need to drill more, and, especially, start a sincere effort to make oil shale economically feasible. If oil shale ever lives up to its promise, China India and Europe can worry about oil from the Persian Gulf, and wouldn’t that be nice? Drilling and refining need to be done as responsibly as possible, and fines for spills and other mishaps need to be severe, including, perhaps, jail time for those who negligently allow it. How do we do this? If Major League Baseball trembles every time Congress starts talking about revoking the sport’s anti-trust exemption, there’s got to be a similar big stick that can be used to “encourage” the nation’s oil companies to invest some of this year’s profits back into production.But the fact is gas is going to be more expensive than it was in 2003, probably forever. If that encourages people who don’t need them to give up their SUVs for more efficient vehicles, so be it.The other side of the coin is that In exchange for relaxing some environmental restrictions, or at least not going to court every time some company wants to drill a hole or build a refinery, the Birkenstockers will get a big piece of what they’re now asking for: a massive commitment to non-oil energy.And that’s where the Old Guard needs to give a little. This country was built to run on cheap oil, and runs very well indeed that way, but now’s the time to work, and hard, to develop virtually every kind of alternative energy source that shows promise.Biomass? Let’s start composting.Bio-diesel? If it can be produced without using more real diesel than it produces, go for it. Wind power? So what if a few birds get pureed in the process?In short, everybody’s got to give a little for this country to keep rolling along. In the end, that’s what’s important.Staff Writer Scott Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 612, or smiller@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado

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