Is there a commitment to change?


Every time I read or see comments about the rising gas prices and the concerns over what to do, I start thinking about the oil crisis of the 1970s. I realize I am old enough to be considered “history” when I recount my experiences during that time to my political science classes. The idea that we had gas rationing during that time seems so unreal, not to mention abhorrent, to them.

But, it has me reflecting on where we could be now if we “stayed the course” of fuel-efficient cars, lower speed limits and work toward energy independence. It was a time when electric cars had some impact; not enough to get the public to change their ways, but enough to get the automotive industry to destroy them. Apparently, having a viable alternative to a gasoline engine was a threat to the oilmen and automakers.

In the intervening 30-plus years, a lot could have been accomplished. It is possible that the battery problem with electric cars would have been solved. We would have been so much further down the road on clean alternatives to coal, gas and oil for energy uses. In short, we could have been where other smaller industrialized countries are: total energy independence.

There are a number of countries where they produce and use their own energy. They import nothing. While we import less from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries than we used to, we still require importation of energy to run this country.

Instead of using our current situation to really change our behavior, we continue to look for the quick and easy ways to get what we need. It is this overarching trait of looking for the easy way out that causes our long-term problems. It is a problem exacerbated by our technology: It has led us to expect information and answers now — not later, but now.

The politically quick and easy answer to the oil situation is to open up offshore drilling and go after the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge again. This response conveniently ignores the fact that oil from such enterprises will be available about 10 years from now, not now. Why? Because it takes time to build the oil rigs, set up the pipelines and then it needs to be refined.

Of course, that is really the bigger hang-up right now. There are not enough oil refineries making fuel. The infrastructure is lacking and none of the oil companies are spending their money fixing that problem.

But, additional oil and refineries are, once again, addressing the problem with old solutions. It is time to shift gears and look for other ways to produce energy. A start has been made with windmills and solar energy but there is much more that can be done.

It is time to redirect the subsidies for the oil industries to the alternative energy community. Unlike the sun and wind, the oil is running out. It is a matter of when, not if. Instead of waiting until the last minute and the concomitant crisis, starting now would give us the time to develop and plan the integration of new energy sources into our lives.

Wars, like now, are fought over scarce resources. Oil is one of those scarcities. We will make our country a much safer and better place if we finally take on the challenge of changing our oil dependence. We have the capability to do it — do we have the will?

Val Torrens covers local issues for the CK Reporter and North Kitsap Herald.

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