It’s all downhill

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 23, 2005

Well, it’s been a big week in the Hoggard household.

On Monday, Kim’s photograph was in USA Today for being in the Final Four of the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge, a college quiz bowl match held in Florida among Historically Black Colleges and Universities. I wrote about that a few weeks ago.

It was a good photograph. And, yes, I’m pretty darned proud of my wife and her teammates from Elizabeth City State University for doing so well in this national competition.

Almost as big as that…I have been smoke free for an entire week now. I quit last Thursday, my 50th birthday, and though the temptation has been mighty at times, I’ve kept my hands, and more importantly, my mouth, off the cigarettes. I am taking some nicotine replacement therapy – lozenges that, I think, are more a psychological crutch than an actual physical substitute. But, frankly, I don’t care. If it works, I’ll chew shoe leather.

For loyal readers with longer memories than I have, you may recall that I’ve threatened to quit smoking on numerous occasions. This time I decided not to announce it ahead of time, partly because I was tired of getting embarrassed when the attempt to quit lasted less than a day.

Stopping smoking is tough, but if I can do it there’s hope for anybody who wants to quit. It really is a matter of making a decision to quit and sticking to it no matter how uncomfortable you get.

I smoked three packs a day – 60 cigarettes a day, every day, for about 31 years (from 16-25 and from 28-50 [I quit for 3 1/2 years back in the ’80s]).

Anyway, I’m pretty jazzed to be a non-smoker. And, hey, I did it before Gov. Easley imposes his draconian cigarette tax. Not smoking is going to save me a lot of money. Now if only I could figure out a way to quit using gasoline and still get to and from work every day.

I know folks are tired of reading my dire predictions concerning the looming energy crisis, but I’ve just got to harp on it every other week or so until the country wakes up. Social Security is not a &uot;crisis&uot; yet. One day it might be, but it’s not a crisis today.

Energy is a crisis right now. President Bush needs to be touring the country promoting a plan to not only get us off foreign oil, but to completely wean us from oil. If the technology isn’t there to do the job, he should be spending billions in research and development.

What, unfortunately, is happening is that the country is going to keep right on relying on a petroleum-based economy until a day in the not too distant future when petroleum-based economies are going to collapse. Unless we start doing something right now – and I mean a commitment as strong and concerted as the effort we put into winning World War II – our economy, and the rest of the industrialized world’s, will collapse into a depression that will make the Great Depression look like a summer picnic at the beach.

Oh well. I’m 50 and don’t have too many years left. I’ll die penniless and without a scrap to eat. Unfortunately, I’ll die along with millions of other Americans – and tens of millions worldwide — when our entire economy grinds to an abrupt halt when the oil runs out.

If we act now, we can avoid the looming disaster and actually create jobs and new businesses. But the country has to be willing to commit itself to completely changing its energy usage.

I heard on the radio that General Motors lost more than a billion dollars in the last quarter. The company is blaming the price of providing health care to its employees, I gather.

Might it actually be that people are looking for fuel-efficient vehicles that GM didn’t have the foresight to make? Might it be the business practices of the company rather than the legitimate benefits its employees should be entitled to?

I think so. With gasoline prices rapidly headed for $3 a gallon…and far beyond in the next decade…might it not be a good idea to offer people a variety of vehicles that utilize hydrogen technology, solar, and battery power?

Again, oh well. If Bush wants to be remembered as a great president, which he has clearly stated he does, then he’d better abandon his buddies in the oil industry, abandon his ambition to seize control of Middle Eastern oil, and get cracking on doing some real good for the country by getting our power plants operating on something other than coal, oil and natural gas. And he’d better demand that companies find a way to create fuel efficient vehicles that do not pollute.

The way we’re going, we’ll either revert to a fuel source like coal that will worsen pollution dramatically or we’re just going to revert to the dark ages of horses, buggies, and staying with 10 miles of home all your life.

It’s a choice that needs to be made now, not when the oil runs out and the economy has already collapsed.

But nobody much cares. So, we’ll get what we deserve, I guess.

Darn. And now I’ve probably extended my life expectancy by quitting smoking. What great timing!