Issues2004: Energy police

Issues2004: Energy police

: This is an easy one, right?

We want to end our dependency on foreign oil, right?

Then why the hell have we not made one damned inch of progress toward that goal?

My big break as a cup reporter came in ’73-’74, when I worked for Chicago Today (a paper that had no tomorrow) and ended up covering the energy crisis. I lucked into covering gas lines and ended up on the front page day after day because — if you’re old enogh to remember, you will remember — we were caught in a national gasoline panic. There were shortages and lines everywhere. Prices skyrocketed. Price controls hovered. We vowed we would get out from under the thumb of the Arab oil oligarchy.

How soon we forget, huh?

We’re just as dependent upon foreign oil today as we were then. And, no, I’m not going to go blaming SUV drivers (who often buy for the four-wheel-drive, not the extra ton). It’s bigger than that.

It’s a failing of government policy and business innovation and national will at every level.

And now we are paying the price. Oh, boy, are we. So what should we do about it? Well, as I emphasize in all these Issues2004 posts, I am no expert. But I’ll start here:

: Gasoline: We must reduce our driving dependency on gasoline. Hybrid engines are a start, at last. So let’s find every possible way to encourage more gas efficiency. I suggest a self-liquidating, Peter-Paul tax that gives rebates to efficient car buyers paid for by inefficient car buyers. It’s not a tax. It’s a transfer of wealth and energy ethics.

: Nuclear power: I would far rather deal with the devil atom than the devil Arab. I’m as freaked as the next guy at scenes from China Syndrome. But it’s time to get over our nuclear jitters. I now (suddenly) believe that the more we can generate energy with nuclear power, the better. Let’s be smart. Let’s be safe. But let’s not be stupid and let our fears of nukes prevent us from using this using this powerful energy source.

: R&D: We have to cut through all limitations to create a Manhattan Project for energy independence, bringing together academics and corporate scientists — antitrust be damned — to find new ways to reduce our oil addiction. This includes reducing regulation and increasing tax advantages for R&D and even creating the means for scientists to communicate openly. You want to have a 9/11 Commission that actually accomplishes something meaningful for our future and our safety, start the Energy Commission and put former Presidents on it along with CEOs of energy and auto companies and energy utilities.

: Reduce Arabs’ dependence, too: As we cut the Arab world off from dependence on our oil dollars, we must replace it with new economic relationships not with Arab governments but with the Arab people: That is, we must create jobs via commerce and, yes, outsourcing. Otherwise, we’ll only create more desperation and anger. If we do this properly, we transfer prosperity and economic power from corrupt Arab governments to the Arab people.

Your thoughts?