Don’t look now, but when it comes to our government’s helping us reduce our demand for fossil fuels and develop clean energy alternatives, there’s no one driving the boat. With all that’s happening in the Gulf, one would think this would be the perfect time to inaugurate a new and aggressive energy policy that would at last break our dependency on fossil fuels. Instead, our President tells us to “visit the Gulf States.” That sounds mighty familiar, doesn’t it? I can still remember his predecessor telling us after 9-11 to “go to Disney World.” We really are living in a fantasy world, a Magic Kingdom of our own making, with elected officials who tell us only what we want to hear.
Yes, he did say in a recent speech that “…the time has come to aggressively accelerate that transition [to clean energy]. The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean energy future.” Sounds good, right? I mean despite the split infinitives. But wait there’s more. “But the only way the transition to clean energy will ultimately succeed is if the private sector is fully invested in this future.” Doh! Did you get that? There it is again. Our savior, the private sector. I have news for you, Mr. President. The private sector will not be interested in clean energy unless the government gives them an atomic wedgie or the American people get serious enough about our future to insist upon it and create a market for it.
I’m old enough to remember even-odd gas rationing back in ’73. I was twelve, and though I could not yet vote, I trusted that the man in the White House with the sweaty upper lip had the best minds on the problem. I also recall sitting in a gasoline queue for two hours back in ’79, thinking, “At least it will never have to get this bad again. The guy in the yellow sweater sees the problem and has it all under control.” Recently, I even caught myself thinking, “This BP spill is bad, really bad. But this is the kind of thing we’ve needed to turn ourselves around.” Oh well, once a chump, always a chump, I guess. Let’s face it. If the government were really serious about getting our economy off the oil standard, they would have done it 30 years ago.
What kind of crisis will it take to turn this nation around? Does a huge tsunami of oil have to surge up the mighty Mississippi and crash upon Minneapolis? What kind of cataclysmic event would be necessary to break our love affair with Big Oil? Honestly? Probably one in which the planet itself would not survive. Unless…
Good people of America, our leaders are steering our nation over the falls and into the pockets of BP, Conoco, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell. It is up to us now. We have to jump ship. And by that I mean, we can’t wait for our government to show us the way. We are oil addicts, you and I, addicted to cheap oil, which not only pollutes our environment and atmosphere, but also forces us to bed down with dirty little tyrants and to slaughter and oppress millions in our thirst for just another drink of the viscous brown stuff.
Our European allies have high gasoline taxes that force manufacturers to produce smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles and drivers to be more realistic about travel; their taxes also help fund mass transit systems. But no politician this side of the Big Pond has had the guts to raise our federal gas tax since 1993. We kicked up such a ruckus then, they’re unlikely to try it again (not with an election coming– like the one this year, and the one in 2012, 2014, 2016, etc.)
In Sweden and Brazil cars that run on biofuel now outsell traditional models. Who makes them? Ford. But that is possible only because their governments got involved– and because of demand. There they call it patriotismo, something on which we Americans pride ourselves, although we don’t often understand what is in our own best interest. Massive government intervention is unlikely to happen here. After all, we know who really runs this country, don’t we? Big Oil has such a hammerlock on all branches of government, Tibetans will all be driving electric yaks before I’ll even see an E85 station near my home.
Last month in the US the sale of big gas-gulping SUVs was up 10%. As the Pogo comic strip used to quip, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” It’s time all of us voluntarily went on a fossil fuel diet, treating oil like a biohazard or something out of The Andromeda Strain.
This past week I started pricing conversion of my Corolla to electric. It’s pricey. I’d probably do better buying a used hybrid (you know, the ones that don’t stop when you apply the brake). It’s time we clamored for electric vehicles and more options for alternative energy, using solar if possible. Whatever is in our power to do, even (and especially) if we are the first on our block to do so, let’s just do it. Sure it’s like pulling out a nose hair. It’s never going to be comfortable. It’s going to hurt. We just need to do it. If we don’t, who will? Really. It’s up to us.
We might just end up being heroes to our grandchildren, instead of lemmings hurling ourselves over the precipice.