Imagine if President Bush, after 9/11, simply declared war on oil and put the whole nation behind ending our crippling dependence on it.
Imagine if we had spent the money we allocated to the war in Iraq toward eliminating the oil addiction. The tab for the Iraq war hovers around the $1 trillion mark and grows at a clip of at least $12 billion a month. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the cost through 2017, including hidden costs such as veterans’ benefits, could total $2.4 trillion.
There is little question that America is defending its interests in the Middle East largely because of oil. In his recent memoir “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World,” former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan wrote: “I’m saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraq war is largely about oil.”
Declaring war on oil should be — literally — a war, giving the president and Congress emergency powers to mobilize the nation as never before.
I am not talking about platitudes, which we are once again hearing from presidential candidates.
I remember watching Jimmy Carter’s 1977 televised speech in which he said dealing with America’s oil dependency as “the moral equivalent of war.”
In the years since, every president and presidential candidate has repeated the call to lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil. Yet little has been done.
Today the crisis is worse than ever as oil soars over $100 a barrel.
Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens recently appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” Pickens painted a dire picture: The U.S. is paying foreigners one-half trillion dollars a year — and some of those nations are our enemies.
At current rates, America is set to spend $5 trillion over the next 10 years to buy foreign oil, Pickens said, adding “That's more than $1 billion a day.”
And he’s right; the beneficiaries of this wealth transfer are often the “bad guys” — Russia, Iran, and Venezuela.
The numbers show our dependency. Currently, about 70 percent of U.S. electricity generation comes from the burning of fossil fuels, with nuclear power accounting for about 20 percent, hydroelectric 5.6 percent, and all other sources only about 2.5 percent.
We need to declare war on oil.
Here’s how such a “war” might work. The president and his administration would have emergency powers to develop, design, create, and implement alternative energy sources — just like the president can do during a full blown war. And since this would be a war, the trial lawyers and environmental extremists wouldn’t be allowed to bring millions of dollars of time-consuming law suits to stop the implementation of these energy sources.
Here’s just some of the areas the U.S. could focus on:Nuclear energy. Its increased use could dramatically lower America’s dependence on oil. France gets about 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, according to the latest statistics. As of June 2007, the production cost of nuclear power stood at 1.72 cents per kilowatt-hour — compared to 9.63 cents for petroleum.
It’s environmentally friendly and we first led the world in this technology. Yet no new nuclear power plants have come on line in the U.S. since February 1996.Geothermal energy. You may not know this, but Iceland gets 99 percent of its electricity from geothermal means.
Drill deep into the earth and you get heat. Pour water down the hole and it vaporizes to steam. Steam can turn turbines to create electricity. Advocates say that a fully developed geothermal energy program in the U.S. could provide all American energy needs 2,000 times over.
Geothermal plants already provide thousands of megawatts of electricity to Northern California and Nevada. Wind power. This natural form of energy also is feasible. American wind energy installations currently produce enough electricity on a typical day to power the equivalent of more than 2.5 million homes, but the potential exists for far more wind power production. Pickens says whole sections of the Midwest could harvest enormous energy from such wind farms. Coal liquification. This process converts coal into petroleum. Coal liquification been used for some time, but it’s costly. Already, the U.S. Air Force is increasingly using synthetic fuels made of coal derivatives, which are far cheaper than jet fuel.
Our government could back developing new technologies to make this work on a mass scale. The U.S. has an abundance of coal. U.S. recoverable reserves are estimated at 275 billion tons, the most in the world.
We need to work at every level to end our oil dependency. Congress needs to pass tax and other incentives for companies to research and develop new energy sources. At the same time, Congress has to incentivize consumers to help create the market for alternative energy.
Make no mistake — if we waged this war, we all would win.
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