fallout over the US sideswiping international efforts to control global
warming, the White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, was asked
whether the new President would call on drivers to reduce fuel
consumption in the interests of a cooler, cleaner planet.
"That's a big no," Fleischer told the assembled media at a press
conference earlier this year. "The President believes that it's an
American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to
protect the American way of life. The American way of life is a blessed
According to the Department of Energy, we
import 9,665,000 barrels of oil a day. Of that, Saudi Arabia provides
1,726,000 barrels or 18%. Total Arab OPEC production is 2,537,000
barrels or 26%.
Osama Bin Laden expressed his distaste for US troops in Saudi Arabia,
which he considers holy land. We told him to stuff it. We had oil
interests in Saudi Arabia that were vital to protect.
World War II, folks at home rationed gas so the troops on the front
lines would have more. I'm sure some people complained bitterly, but I
think most went along with it because it was the patriotic thing to do.
So here we
are, 60 years later and SUV makers are enjoying record profits, as is
the RV industry. The government allows the auto industry to circumvent
CAFE standards by calling SUVs trucks, which are not required to adhere
to the same standard of fuel efficiency. Who wrote that rule? The auto
companies spend millions trying to convince us that we need that Hemi
4x4 PowerWagon. As Americans, we feel as though we ought to be able to
drive anything we want and can afford.
find ourselves at war. As I watch the parade of names at the end of the
NewsHour, I think that Timothy Smith of Baton Rouge LA, Age 24, 1LT, US
Army, IED, was probably a great guy and he will be sorely missed by his
family. He was killed not to provide freedom for the Iraqi people, but
for the uninterrupted flow of our precious bodily fluid. You wonder
whether his parents drive an SUV or did he drive a macho 4x4 with extra
big wheels. Are you willing to give up your son to
protect the standard of living Ari Fleischer had in mind?
misrepresents the issue. Now that his game is up regarding WMD, he has
switched to another reason for fighting the good fight. We need to bring
democracy to the Mideast and demonstrate that freedom is God's gift.
Come on! Give me a break. It's the oil. We are losing our sons and
daughters so that we can continue to be the world's energy glutton. They
are fighting for our right to drive SUVs and RVs and live energy
intensive lives. Bush didn't create our energy policy, but he is in the
driver's seat now. What we have now is
the result of decades of congressional action and inaction. Bush is
going to be a disaster for the environment. He doesn't understand the
been able to sell the notion that our mission in Iraq is a worthy one.
Freedom is God-given. Our God says that. We are in Iraq to set the
Iraqis free. It would be great if the Iraqis were inclined to feel that
way, but they think we are trying to jam our God down their throats and
occupy their land and their oil resources. We have acted like
empire-building bullies to maintain the flow of oil and secure new
sources. Americans wince when gas goes over $2.00 a gallon. Now it is at
$56 a barrel. What does
that gallon really cost when you figure in the cost of our military
establishment and now, Homeland Defense costs? What percentage of your
income tax goes to preserve our standard of living? The question that we
need to ask is this: is the cost worth it? Is your
worth your son?
Why is it that I see the yellow
ribbon with Support Our Troops more often on SUVs and full-size pickups,
than on standard-size cars?
NOW with Bill Moyers did
a great program on
Paying for Politics: What Oil Buys
mind that SUVs, that are
responsible for 20% of US emissions of CO2,
are the choice of 50% of new vehicle
There is a
wide variety of smaller SUVs and station wagons that get 25MPG or
better. Vehicles of this size would satisfy 90% of the needs of 90% of
the buyers. Does it make sense to tote around the additional carrying
capacity the porkers offer 350 days of the year? Not only that, the
have to be a lot more fun to drive. When you need a porker, rent one.
Ford has introduced the
Escape Hybrid. 36MPG city.
Not only do
these high-slung, overweight station wagons consume twice the fuel a
reasonable vehicle should and emit twice the CO2 but because of their
weight, consume more energy in the manufacturing process and presumably
are proportionally harder on roads and bridges.
One answer is
Hypercar. Or the way cool
If your reaction is one of
revulsion, "oh, I couldn't drive one of those!", consider the benefits.
Downsizing our fleet and deploying solar would be good for the economy
because it would arrest the flow of dollars going overseas and put
people to work building the renewable energy infrastructure. We get to
change our politics because we are no longer dependent on the politics
of the oil-producers.
We need to stop
burning fossil fuels and convert to a hydrogen economy and do it
as quickly as we can.
No matter how the story gets spun, this war is about oil and the quest
to maintain a steady flow of our precious bodily fluids. Years ago, I
heard that there were weirdoes in Saudi Arabia, who were upset that
there were American troops stationed in the
Islamic holy land. I have to say that I don't think I would like it
if there were foreign troops stationed 2 counties over. My objection
wouldn't be on religious grounds though. I'm sure we knew about this
resentment, but dismissed it because we are bigger and we're right.
Since we are now at
war, wouldn't it be prudent to institute gas rationing? We rationed
homeland gas during WW2 to allow more to go to the troops at the front.
So, let's stop importing oil from the Mideast and buy only from our
buddies. That would be South America,
Canada, the UK, Norway and Mexico. Divide what we can
produce domestically and import from friendly partners by the number of licensed
drivers. That's what every driver gets. The new Department of Rationing
distributes ration coupons to everyone in an equal amount. Those who
need more gas can buy coupons from those who don't at whatever price the
seller wishes to charge. We will be less susceptible to terrorist's
attacks and do our descendants a big favor. The pain of deploying this
plan will be far less than having a rationing plan imposed on us by some
Rationing would have
a downside in that the Mideast oil producers would see the cash spigot close. With no income, what
happens to the Saudi royal family? What happens to the other oil
producing nations? There is no money to buy weapons of moderate
destruction and there is no money to buy food for the folks. Big
Imagine the economic
impact of rationing and energy self-sufficiency. Since we no longer have
to protect the oil routes, we can substantially downsize our military.
We can stop subsidizing the big energy businesses and use that money to
increase our national energy efficiency. We can use a fee-bate mechanism
to reward buyers of efficient, lightweight vehicles and punish buyers of
oversized, overweight, inefficient vehicles. The program would be
revenue neutral because the fee payers provide the rebates. The concept
that grew out of the Dinah Shore ads about seeing the USA
in your Chevrolet, is now obsolete. If you aren't part of the solution,
you are part of the problem. The days of energy intensive lifestyles
must end soon. Some would argue that the government has no business
regulating what kind of car you drive. That may have been true, but
times have changed. The days of the wild west are over, when a man with
a gun was king and the government be damned. One of the purposes of the
government is to act as the guardian of the commons. Currently, the
government is on the payroll of those who care little for the commons
and most about their bottom line.
Hoping that Bush will have a science
epiphany anytime soon is fruitless. I would love to see a gutsy White
House reporter ask Bush, "Sir, are you aware of the Law of Conservation
of Matter?" Bush would start doing that mouth thing. "I'll have to get
back to you on that one", he'd say. "Next question."
I think my best hope is with the
press. If enough of the press understands the dilemma we are in and the
need to do something fast to avoid bad stuff, they can get the word out,
by writing books and articles, doing interviews and eventually making
Bush confront the obvious.
If I were in charge of things,
I'd make Amory Lovins the Secretary of Energy. The goal would be to sell
the conversion to reduced-energy lifestyle to the American people and create a conversion agenda.
With a series of TV firesides, Amory would present the situation to
the American people. He would do a PowerPoint presentation of the Law of
Conservation of Matter and make a case for the fact that we are quickly
adding to the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere. The CO2 acts as a big blankie, making the earth warmer. The earth finds this insulting and
reacts by visiting us with floods, droughts and severe storms. Etcetera.
As a favor to our descendants, we
need to put the brakes on and stop the transfer. We need to quickly arrest the
use of oil and hitch our wagon to the renewable star.
One of the politically attractive
things about the soft path is that it creates jobs. It seems like much
of the hardware; photovoltaic panels, hot water panels, pumps and
controllers, is old technology. Sure there are going to be
incremental improvements down the road, but the stuff we have now is
good. We can make this gear and install it and along with other
technologies, make dramatic improvements in the way energy is used.
There are companies today who are in the business of designing and
installing "smart home" systems. In addition to distributing music
throughout the house, computers open vents, turn on fans and extend
shade awnings. Most this work is done by local
When a homeowner retrofits his
house to make it more energy efficient or adds a solar array for
electricity or hot water, those improvements are paid for with a second
mortgage. Mortgage payments are tax-deductible. Bills from energy
suppliers are not deductible. Do the arithmetic.
Instead of fostering war, we can
start to regain some world prestige by doing a big favor for the 3rd
world. We would manufacture and distribute what I will call the
USSolarSystem Model M1A1. The basic unit is a photovoltaic cell array
measuring 1M x 2M. They would be designed to withstand most gunshot wounds.
Included in the system would be the required mounting hardware as well
as a family of batteries, pumps, autoclaves, refrigerators and other
appropriate devices. By giving 3rd World people the medical and
lifestyle benefits of cheap energy, we give them a chance to step out of
poverty and build a better life. Imagine the points we would get for
that! Da Debel didn't make us do that! The factories to build these devices would provide a solid jobs
program for us and others. It is better to have factories making devices
that contribute to producing renewable energy than weapon systems.
Republicans like to rail against our welfare system and
at the same time support a "strong defense". Go to
click on Military. You can drill down through every weapon system they
want you to know about.
The F-14, F-15 and F-18 are old airplanes, but they are still very
impressive. Tell me why we need both the F-22 and the Joint Strike
Fighter. It's a welfare system for the well-paid, cloaked in national
defense and our commitment to be number one in war-fighting systems.
For a look at what your tax dollar buys, read this
We need to be better world citizens.
It looks like people all over the world admire America, the concept and
America the people. What they have a hard time with is the attitude.
The attitude of the government and specifically,
George W. Bush. We are seen as bullies.
Were diplomats on some kind of magic
mushroom weekend when they offered to mentor the Iranian nuclear program? Here is a
country that is blessed with 2 abundant energy sources, oil and solar. Our
nuclear lobby promoted governmental encouragement of nuclear energy to
produce electricity to be distributed on a grid that didn't exist and
that would have been expensive to build and make secure. That wasn't very
smart, long-term. An investment
in solar photovoltaic would have been a far better choice. In a fuel-less Third World, USA Solar Technology can provide
villages with all the benefits of small scale systems. These systems would offer a step out of poverty. We can
start to regain some of the prestige we once had by offering butter
instead of guns.
What would Big Al
Queda do if we left the Arabian Peninsula?