Monday, January 02, 2006

Dependence Problem

John Kerry used to say something I actually agreed with when he was running from president. He mentioned several times that we needed to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. That was about the extent of his plan as he didn't mention any specifics. This may or may not be one reason he lost to a cowboy from Texas and is still the junior senator from Massachusetts.

There may still be those who see a dependence on foreign oil as a non-issue. I believe they call themselves free traders. However, there is an incident overseas which suggests that this may be a problem after all.

Russia took Europe to the brink of a winter energy crisis yesterday when it carried out a Cold War-style threat and halted gas deliveries to Ukraine, the main conduit for exports to the West.

With a quarter of its gas supplied by Russia, Europe is facing serious disruption and price rises for as long as the dispute rumbles on.

This should certainly settle the matter. When the lifeblood of the economy comes from foreign powers which are volatile, so too is the oil supply. An oil supply that can be cut off, even briefly, can wreak havoc on a nation. Close eyes should be paid to this situation to see just how bad things get for our European brethren.

It would be nice if the powers that be would take heed. After all, we too get a great deal of oil--about half--from abroad. Yet recent news tells us we won't be drilling in ANWR. Before someone--Troutsky, I'm looking at you--hops in telling me that drilling in ANWR wouldn't have helped ease dependence on foreign oil significantly, something must be clarified.

There are two ways to reduce a dependence on foreign oil: using less or producing more domestically. Drilling in ANWR would have reduced this dependence at least to some extent. Whether or not the sacrifice of the pristine arctic tundra would have been worth it can be debated, but the point remains that every increase in domestic drilling minimizes the risk of having what is happening to Europe happen to us. If we are not to drill in Alaska, what is to be done? We could always ration gas like we did under Carter, but I think Bush's approval rating has fallen far enough.

It is true that America will not be dependent on oil forever. As gas prices increase, so too will demand for alternative fuels. There will come a day in the not too distant future where gas-powered cars are a minority on the highway. But the oil goes for more than automobiles, and oil will still be a vital part of the economy for a long time. Thus, it behooves the federal government to come up with an energy plan that won't end in an economic slowdown, or worse, all out war.

I don't wish to paint a bleaker picture than exists. There is not going to be a war in Europe over this business of oil. Likewise, it would be foolish to predict a war with, say, Canada, over a dispute about gas. Yet the point is still valid. Were a nation to be cut off from its supply of oil, least of all America, one can bet that a war would soon follow.

If I over-state the issue it is only because it seems that it is being ignored in Washington. Scrapping the plan to drill in ANWR is acceptable so long as another option takes its place in the debate that should be going on in the halls of Congress. Unfortunately, procrastination on contentious issues and pork-barrel spending seem to be the only issues that unite Congress.

Still, it couldn't hurt to hope for change. Maybe Congess members resolved to do their jobs in the new year. Keep those fingers crossed.


Dare!PDX said...

One issue with ANWR continually overlooked is the fact that we are exporting a huge portion of our GDP to religous-totalitarian dictators, rigged democracies, and the enemies of the 1st world.

That GDP, if kept in the US via development of ANWR (which would supply a major amount of energy for the pacific nw) would compound providing long-term benefits to our economy. Furthermore ANWR will be developed cleaner than any other nation in the world under the EPA, Alaskan, and Ciri corporations regulation (Ciri corporation is the native Alaskan corporation that has a share of the mineral rights on the Alaskan North slope).

Just a mention (there is a post about ANWR up at a new blog I'm starting if you want to read more).

A Wiser Man Than I said...

You raise an excellent point, but because of our embrace of free trade, we have been forced to deal with regimes that are totalitarian in nature. If we develop drilling we may not have to deal with the nations of OPEC, but we will have to get goods from China.

ANWR is but a small issue in the grand scheme of things. Our trade policy needs to be looked at more closely. It's high time we ended this free trade nonsense.

troutsky said...

How very sad that the people that consume the most energy (and overall resources by far)on the planet are the quickest ones to reach for the sword when their hegemony is even slightly threatened.Lets think out of this little box and ask ,what is the end game?Is our historical development just a never ending expansion, development and consumption begetting more development and consumption? Always more, always bigger,always faster? Why are there "totalitarian" regimes? (The quote marks indicate questionable definition,"totalitarian is not only a terroristic political co-ordination of society,but a non-terroristic economic-technical co-ordination which operates through the manipulation of needs by vested intrests") How does capitalism solve the problem of sustainability, of equitable sharing of finite resources? Of quality of life?

A Wiser Man Than I said...

Capitalism does have its excesses, but it also contributes something valuable to the equation: efficiency, at least in the business realm. This may be offset by personal consumption of gasoline, but that is a price we pay--or rather, our earth pays--for our freedom.

As of right now in the United States of America, people are dependent on gas to drive their cars where they will. We can bemoan the rampant consumerism and bustle of the modern life, but it is going to be here for some time to come. It seems that the correct response is not to turn off the spicket and hope people can cope, but rather changing minds.

If we can convince our fellow man that we don't need to drive an SUV to soccer practice--to use a cliched example--we need not worry as much about dependence on foreign oil.

You know that I am no neo-con, hellbent on war with every Ismlamic country in the world. Yet I find the dependency on foreign oil problematic. Surely you can see my point.

Further, although Iran--for example--is not the U.S.S.R. recarnate, it is no France. Saudi Arabia, too, reeks of dictatorship. Though I do not think we need to give these countries democracy, it still worries me that we trade with them on so large a scale. Caution, is, once again, the order of the day.

troutsky said...

I do see your point but still feel increasing domestic oil production does nothing to help people start thinking about consumption practices and values,in fact does just the opposite, allows people to put off for another generation the hard decisions. Enviro destruction and oil wars will only get worse as we put off the inevitable.All the oil found in the Arctic could just as easily be sold to China! Capitalism does produce wealth but sometimes that "efficiancy" is disguised as external costs, passed on costs, and undisclosed information to consumers which always has a painful day of reckoning.A Christian should understand that concept! Natural systems are not so much efficient as they are sustainable.

A Wiser Man Than I said...

A Christian understands that nature is at our disposal to be used for our betterment. This doesn't mean we need to plow down the forests, but it means we needn't worry about eating a cow. A correct understanding of nature as God's creation allows the Christian to be prudent without suffering unnecessary conscience attacks which plague so many environmentalists.

Prudence is obviously missing in our current culture, but what are we going to do? We can't support laws that tell people to use their freedom correctly or we're rather missing the point.