We stand here, collectively agog at our energy misfortunes. The price for a barrel of oil is up 33 percent in the last 45 days - from a then historic high of $100/barrel! What is going on here!?
There is talk of shortages in refinery capacity, geopolitical instability in Nigeria and the Middle East, and there seems to be general agreement that some vast conspiracy of speculators and hedge funds has somehow found a way to manipulate the global energy infrastructure.
I don't pretend to have the answers, but I think that our National response has been less than admirable. Seemingly paralyzed by the fact that our nation single handedly consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil per day, and therefore sends more than $2.6 billion a day to the governments of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Libya and other unstable, anti-democratic (and, for the record, specifically anti-American) regimes, we collectively hunch our shoulders, press forward and continue to act as if this will pass.
It will not!
Yes, prices are likely unsustainable at these level, but any decline will only be temporary. The rest of the world wants what America hewed out of the ground decades ago and currently feeds with 25% of the worlds energy usage. India, China, S. America, Russia - greater than 50% of the world's population - all "need to grow" their way to happiness and success, and so definitionally, the finite resource will disappear somewhere in the foreseeable future.
So what have we done about it?
Well, the Ford F-150 did slip to #2 on the list of bestselling cars in the US for the first quarter of 2008 (14 mpg in the city); "Mc-Hillary" thought a 3 month repeal of the $0.18 gas tax would be a great idea; California, generally considered a leader among the States in proactive energy policy, declared its intention to continue to charge biodiesel users all road taxes, and Congress decided recently to invite oil executives from the five top US oil companies to Washington to explain what is going on. Their answers were in general embarrassingly short on specifics, and the absurdity of their first quarter profits of $36 billion hampered the sympathetic bias they received. However, to a man (yes they are all men), they proclaimed the necessity of continued drilling in the US. To a man, they ascerted that we absolutely must turn Alaska, the Coast of California and every other currently protected place into drilling platforms so that we can continue to descecrate the few remaining pristine areas of our country in search of environmentally destructive energy sources that will take decades to extract. In other words, to a man they demonstrated the strategic bankruptcy of their policy positions.
We are a short-term focused nation - like it or not. Turning the unspoiled regions of the country into vast oil drilling platforms is not a short-term solution. If we are going to embark on a long term solution to our energy needs, let's cease and desist talking about drilling for more oil and instead talk about ALTERNATIVES! The science is there. It just needs intelligent policies put in place to encourage consumers to adopt the nascent (and therefore more expensive) commercial solutions available today. We are a capitalist society; we should understand "economies of scale" - we need more people adopting sustainable energy solutions so that those solutions rapidly "scale-up" and become less expensive than petroleum-based energy sources.
Believe it or not, the grassroots groundswell that is reacting to pump prices is helping to build some momentum. I can't you tell how many people call Springboard and deride the current situation that has diesel at $4.85 in some places (on its way higher, no doubt). They are taking things into their own hands by adopting biodiesel and reaping the benefits of a less expensive, less polluting, non-food-based fuel. But we need the government to step in and fund development, support initiatives and repeal antiquated, oil-based laws such as taxing alternatively powered (read BIODIESEL-powered) vehicles at the same rate as the Saudi/Exxon/carbon powered vehicle fleet. We can't rely on Big Oil or shrinking Detroit to take the lead. They've spent the last twenty years milking the pumps and ignoring the inevitable.
Let's move forward together and force our elected representatives to get out of bed with Big Oil and start to articulate and enact a rationale forward thinking sustainable, alternative energy policy!
Let me know how it goes,