Gasoline is more than four dollars a gallon and there is an energy crisis in a historic election year. Presumptive presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain both have plans to solve the problems. In fact, each of their respective political parties have numerous ideas and various bills swirling about in both Houses of Congress. Who has the correct answer, Democrats or Republicans? Actually, everyone does. None of the proposed solutions are bad, but some need more examination and reworking.
When the price of gas reached four dollars, the Bush White House, many Republicans, and some Democrats called for lifting the ban on off-shore drilling and implied that it would quickly lower gas prices. The immediacy of the Internet and Blogging presented a lot of information that refuted the premise. Those off-shore advocates, who included Senator McCain, recanted the original assertions and admitted that lifting the ban might provide more oil in the future, but presently, would only provide a psychological lift.
A number of contributing factors have brought the United States to this point:
2.Weakening U.S dollar
3.Unstable European economy
4. Increased oil demands in the Middle East, China, Japan, and India
5.Potential U.S or Israeli war with Iran
6.Greed of the oil companies
Barack Obama’s energy plan looks workable, with the exception of ethanol based on corn or soybeans. There are a host of other raw materials that could be used to create bio-fuels. That list includes sugarcane, beets, algae, synthetic algae, various grasses, trees, plants, cane sugar, and syngas. Japan is experimenting with converting rice to bio-fuels.
John McCain’s ideas are also on target, also, but he is more into nuclear power than Obama. He is proposing 45 new plants by 2030. Before building new reactors, it is important to first secure storage for the nuclear waste. No proposal should be considered until there is a comprehensive study of existing power plants with attention given to the health of all life forms within. Unlike the past, builders claim new technology provides more safety precautions for reactors. Nuclear energy is clean, but at what cost? Three Mile Island and Chernobyl are not history footnotes.
Federal records indicate that almost three fourths of the leased land occupied by oil companies, has not produced any oil or gas. According to the companies, it takes time, study, and money to determine whether or not to drill. Despite calculations, an area could still turnout to be a series of “dry holes”. There are no guarantees with the process. Therefore, lifting the off-shore drilling ban would only provide more potential opportunities.
Solving America’s energy problems does not address alternatives to the numerous products made from oil. The list includes: clothing ink, parachutes, deodorant, combs, pillows, shoes, cold cream, movie film, car enamel, and cameras, heart valves, crayons, parachutes, telephones, transparent tape, panty hose, rubbing alcohol, hearing aides, cassettes, motorcycle helmets, pillows, shower doors, model cars, floor wax, dishwashing liquid, nail polish, putty, etc.
While implementing energy solutions, there are other issues to be addressed. America should practice constructive diplomacy with Iran and Venezuela. Negotiating can work wonders. Contrary to its own rhetoric of not talking to enemies, the Bush administration, with China’s assistance, made a deal with North Korea to halt their nuclear plans “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”.
Although President Bush and Vice President Cheney have been looking for excuses to invade Iran, they dare not. Privately, Israel understands, but with or without U.S approval, there are strong Israeli indications of planned airstrikes, similar to the 1981 attack on Iraq’s nuclear research facility. Unlike Iraq, Iranians would retaliate. If this were to happen, expect grave consequences on the world energy front. Globally, 40% of traded oil travels through the thirty five mile Strait of Hormuz, which is banked along northern Iran. A war or conflict of any sort would disrupt all oil tanker movement in those waters. The worldwide effect on oil prices, stock markets, and food supplies would be catastrophic. Regardless of U.S involvement in Iraq, the Iraqi Shiite controlled government would probably privately lend support to Shiite controlled Iran. In fact, much of the Middle East would be in political and moral turmoil. Various regimes would be at odds with its people concerning U.S loyalties. Surely, the United States can persuade Israel to hold off and use the Iraqis and Russians to broker a deal with Iranian powers concerning nuclear plans. Although it's rarely mentioned, Russia is in the middle of completing its billion-dollar deal to build Iran’s first nuclear reactor. The entire situation is ironic: the U.S originally helped launch Iran’s nuclear program in the 1950’s as part of the Atoms for Peace Program. Much of that plan was halted after the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran. The revolution ended American and Western influence in the country
The United States and Israel have different reasons for wanting to take on Iran. Israelis believe Iran will use the peaceful nuclear program as a front to build an atomic bomb for the ultimate destruction of Israel. Forget all the American hoopla concerning Iranian aid to Iraqi insurgents or Israel’s reasons, it is about oil. While trying to find long term energy solutions, it is critical to get more crude. Saudi Arabia has promised to increase their output, but it is still not enough. OPEC refuses blame for the high price of oil and says consumption is the issue. The top six oil exporters are Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Iran, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.
Although it is not currently happening, Iraq and Kuwait should be supplying the U.S with as much oil as can be spared. One would think a long-term deal could be made for exploration and drilling in both countries. Something should also be negotiated with Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez. There has to be some areas of common interest. Maybe the problem for Chavez is with President Bush. A new administration might solve part of the problem. America has to realize that it can not fight every nation that disagrees with her, especially if they have oil. It is reality, not appeasement or a sign of weakness.
It is obvious the energy/oil problems and national security will be among the deciding factors for the presidential race. The best choice will be the one that can solve domestic and global issues though diplomacy and mediation. Whether it’s McCain or Obama, the winner has to realize military intervention is leverage and not a partial solution to energy problems.
Now it is time to express my wisdom concerning the energy crisis. One thing the Presidential candidates and Congress accomplished was to establish the various ways to find the answers. It occurred to me that the majority of Americans know as much about the issue as most of congress. The leaders of that political institution have their congressional staffs collect information, and congressmen talk to different experts. They proceed to study the facts and formulate an opinion. Unfortunately, the political procedure then takes place and includes grandstand speeches, special interest considerations, pork barrel attachments, possibly public hearings, committee stalemates, partisanship voting, and if the bill passes, it heads to the senate for more of the same treatment. How can gas, oil, or anything else get a fair shake? I have a better way; a quicker process that would avoid the pitfalls of political procrastination and only take a month.
First, congressional leadership of both houses should select one congressman from each of the major political parties for a special fact solving committee. Neither selection can have received any funding from any energy sector in their most recent campaigns. Another stipulation would be that the final plan only be subject for implementation and not any congressional voting. Obama and McCain’s energy plans will be used as the basis for one comprehensive answer. The staffs of the congressmen will be required to compile the top ten university environmental programs. Department heads from each school will submit the names of three experts for drilling oil, seismology, refineries, automotive engine design, wind power, solar, nuclear, bio-fuels, hybrid cars, coal to oil conversion, electricity, energy research, and tax consultants. A random drawing for experts from each sector will be reduced to two people per category. Including the two congressional representatives, this group will be responsible for generating the most productive, time efficient, and cost effective plan for the United States to create a working energy agenda. A timetable should be set to achieve each goal. Time limits have a tendency to spur timeliness and greatness.
The panel should also include administrative assistants, two engineering professors, and two CPA’s to keep track of the potential financial obligations. All panelists will sign a letter of confidentiality, which will include hefty fines if broken. This distinguished group should be sequestered at a non-disclosed location and given one month to generate a plan of action. Congress will also have one month to find funding for the project.
Congressional leaders need to lead on the issue and stop the political party bickering over who has the better idea. Senate leadership consists of: President Pro Tempore Robert C. Byrd (D), Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell(R), and Minority Whip Jon Kyl(R). In the House of Representatives: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D), Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D), Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D), Minority Leader John A. Boehner(R), and Minority Whip Roy Blunt(R).
Stock market woes have been blamed on the high cost of oil and gasoline. I think an idea like mine would stimulate growth on several fronts. According to the Oil Price Information Service of AAA, Americans are paying 1 billion more for gasoline per day than 5 years ago. Some sort of plan has to be implemented soon, or radical measures will have to be taken.