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We need an energy policy now

Question: Why doesn’t America have a comprehensive energy policy? Answer: Because regardless of the quadrennial rhetoric during presidential elections, Americans have never really insisted upon having one. Do soccer moms really need Hummers, Expeditions and Yukons? Why did the “fuel-efficient car company” Nissan introduce the 8-cylinder Titan? Because buying gas-guzzling vehicles is as American as 24 ounce cokes and super-sized fries. Few Americans drive electric cars, keep the thermostat at 65 degrees during the winter or turn their air-conditioners off during the summer. So how can we really criticize any administration for the lack of a comprehensive energy policy? Aside from gasoline, oil is used in medicines, pesticides, cosmetics, fertilizers, plastics, paints and in a myriad of other consumer products. The United States imports 12 billion barrels of oil per day. Within 25 years, we’ll be importing 20 billion barrels per day. And guess what? We may not even be the biggest consumers in the not-so-distant future.The surging demand in oil prices has numerous causes, but much as it has to do with a billion Chinese and another billion Indians who have joined us as oil consumers. Today there are about 800 million cars in the world. That number is expected to exceed 3.5 billion within 50 years. Adjusted for inflation, what do you think the price of a gallon of gasoline will be then? Worse, what effect will the increased usage have on global warming and the environment?Unfortunately, as we compete for oil on the open market, the price increase is forcing us to send billions to the Arab states ($170 billion this year alone). The Saudis may be our allies on certain geopolitical levels, but that nation also exports the most virulent type of anti-Americanism and radical Islam. Do we really want to subsidize such regimes?This isn’t a George Bush problem any more than it was a Bill Clinton problem or for that matter, a Bush I, Reagan, Carter, Ford or Nixon problem. The problem rests with each of us and our legislators who have for years put our collective heads in the sand regarding not just the laws of supply and demand, but more importantly, the disregard for the source of those supplies.Many of today’s energy problems are residual effects of alliances created during the Cold War. But the Iron Curtain fell 15 years ago, and still we have done little to redress the looming crisis. Scientists and engineers around the world pretty much agree that there is enough oil under the ground to last into the foreseeable future. But it’s getting those resources onto the open market that will present challenges.The majority of the earth’s oil and gas reserves are deposited in some of the most unstable places on the planet: the Middle East, South America, Russia and southeast Asia. That makes the chances of maintaining unfettered access problematic at best. Oil and access to it will be a major component of every economic and geopolitical decision for decades. Because humankind is what it is, it’s likely that many of our well-intentioned decisions about safeguarding those resources will be faulty.Republicans would have us believe that more production is the answer. Many Democrats tell us conservation is the key. But each presents only half of the equation. We need both, and soon, because the notion of alternative power is a pipe dream at this point in time. During the oil crisis of the 1970s when car manufacturers focused on producing fuel efficient cars, we were told conservation was the trend of the future. But we moved away from that idea, as evinced by the fact that if we as a nation really wanted to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we wouldn’t have bought more cars with 8-cylinder engines during the past five years than anytime since the 1980s. Nor would the sales of 4-cylinder engines have decreased by a third during that same period. Somehow, Republicans and Democrats have to unite in our efforts to develop alternative sources of energy. The Republican-controlled Co-ngress must impose stricter standards on car makers. If car manufacturers implemented reasonable standards regarding fuel consumption, we could reduce the amount of imported oil by a million barrels a day. That may only be about 8 percent of current imports, but it’s a start.We also need to begin construction on nuclear power plants that are cleaner and safer, as well as drilling in places such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. By the way, ANWR is not the pristine wilderness some environmentalists make it out to be. In reality it’s Alaskan tundra. Besides, only a tiny fraction of those almost 19 million acres would be used for drilling.With a world population at about 6.5 billion people and growing, and with the Chinese and now the Indian subcontinent joining us as hyper-consumers, some sacred cows must be slaughtered. Do we really have a choice?Butch Mazzuca of Singletree, a Realtor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@earthlink.netVail Colorado


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