A better way?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2005

Well, we’re in Iraq, right next door to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and bunch of other Middle Eastern oil producing nations. I guess, though President Bush won’t say it, that this is a wise long-term strategy to protect America from the looming, inevitable, oil crunch.

Actually, there is a better way to assure that we have all the power we need to remain the strongest nation on Earth. Being engaged in constant, never ending warfare – which is where we’re headed – will not change certain immutable facts about energy production.

There is currently plenty of oil to go around and Middle Eastern oil producing nations can accommodate our request – even if reluctant to do so.

But petroleum is a finite resource. All the wells will eventually dry up.

Experts estimate that at current production and usage rates, the world’s oil supply will be exhausted in 50 years and that source of energy and manufacturing material will never again be available.

For the sake of our national security – both for our domestic economy and to prevent foreign invasion – this nation needs to prioritize the development of alternative energy sources.

Right now we are the envy of the world, but we have plenty of enemies that would love to see us brought to our knees because we didn’t plan ahead.

When the wells start drying up, unless there are alternative energy sources in place, nations that depend on oil for their economic well-being will be warring on their neighbors and nations that depended upon that oil will be the targets.

We can gain control of the oil fields and keep things here from falling apart economically, but eventually the oil will give out and we’re going to be in a real pickle because in maintaining that control we will have made enemies of every other nation.

The rest of the world is trying to catch up to us. Europe has almost got its union in place, which will make the EU the economic equal of the United States, but more importantly, China has adopted a form of capitalism that will make it a more powerful economic entity than the U.S. By a recent government (under the Bush administration) estimate, China will become the dominant economic world power in 20 or 30 years.

As it develops, so too will its demand for energy.

To his credit, President Bush did say in a State of the Union address a couple of years ago that we had to develop hydrogen technology as an alternative to petroleum, he didn’t give it enough funding to really make much of a dent in solving the high costs associated with making hydrogen. And there has been no significant work done to convert manufacturing facilities and power plants to hydrogen power.

Although President Carter initiated an alternative energy program over 25 years ago, there is still no viable energy source to supplant fossil fuels.

There are programs, such as the Northampton County High School-East electric car program, that do give us a way to conserve fossil fuel energy, but these programs are not adequate.

If 25 years of research have yielded nothing particularly new regarding energy that everyone can use, American citizens and government officials should be getting worried right now about the future of this nation.

Not only must the technologies be invented that can prevent a global energy crisis, those technologies must also be installed and put into use well before the crisis begins.

The use of fossil fuels is not limited to fuel tanks for cars and furnaces for homes.

Plastics – something now so pervasive that we couldn’t function with them – are manufactured from petroleum products.

If it took another 25 years to develop the technology and 25 more years to implement its use in the United States, the world would still spiral into chaos.

We have to not only reconfigure our ideas about energy production and use; we must do the same thing for every other nation on the planet.

If estimates are correct, China will be seeking the fuel to allow over a billion of its citizens to lead the kind of lives those in rich nations live. The same is true for India, the European Union, and every other group of people.

This has nothing to do with how aggressive or peaceful nations now are. When the oil runs out, it will literally be a matter of survival for nations and for people.

Researchers are working to develop new energy sources, but they do not get the kind of funding needed to ensure success in a short period of time.

This problem requires a global effort, led by the United States, with an eye for the not very distant future.

As a comparison, people are getting antsy now because Social Security is predicted to go into the red in 2041. People will still get full benefits if nothing is done before then. But what difference will it make when 10 years later there is not enough oil to fuel cars, factories, and state-of-the-art weapons of war?

The time for action is now. If President Bush wants to have a positive legacy, he needs to take the lead on this issue and quit trying to secure the oil wells of other nations – oil wells that will be bone dry long before we’re prepared unless we take action now.

High gas prices are an annoyance right now, but it will get much, much worse unless we start doing more than giving this problem lip service.