Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Will to Change

My dad is a deep thinker who has a lot of time to think. He gets vexed over issues – some big, many small. He invariably turns to my sister and me to get his feelings off his chest and to hear what we have to say.

I must say I don't have the greatest track record at responding to my Pops's musings. Let's just say I try to weed out the wheat from the chaff, and thus respond to the ones I think a) he thinks is important; b) I think is important or c) that piss me off.

The latest one from Pops falls into a, b and c.

He writes: "On another subject, Are you writing/calling/emailing your and every other Senator and member of the House and every member of this Administration and both of the Presidential candidates and asking them: What, specifically, are you going to do about the energy crisis? No platitudes, no cop outs. What are you going to do? How can we not drill in ANWR and more importantly, off the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts, given that offshore catastrophes have been nil? How can we not legislate smaller, more efficient vehicles? How can we not promote nuclear electric generating projects, given that the French and others have gone for decades without catastrophe?"

Excellent point, these. Except for one: Drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and the outer continental shelf.

So, I responded. Here it is below.

"I agree that our politicians fail to see life beyond the immediacy of their political survival, which is the next term. Not all of them, perhaps, but most of them.

I also agree that we need to overhaul our energy policy and the way we Americans view energy and consume energy. For too long we have seen energy as some kind of divine right, and that we should pay far less than any other country's citizens to drive our cars, heat our homes and run our refrigerators and our TVs. The price rises have been painful but put in scale with what many other countries – and especially Europeans – are paying, they still remain low, relatively speaking. We need to see energy as a commodity, one that is subject to pricing, demand and supply. And the demand is coming on strong from developing countries like China and India, whose people aspire deservedly to the same quality of life that we've enjoyed for more than a century.

So, in the face of rising prices, we Americans should either grin and pay the higher prices or be proactive – find ways to conserve and seek alternative energy supplies that distance ourselves from the relentless pursuit of extracting every drop that the Earth has created over hundreds of millions of years.

Drilling offshore and in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge is not the answer. It's akin to prescribing a cough drop to a patient with a terminal respiratory ailment. The studies I have read and the people with whom I have spoken say that drilling in the outer continental shelf and in ANWR will drop the price per barrel of oil negligibly. It is a short-sighted maneuver and does nothing to address the long-term problem, which is that the Earth is running short of fossil fuels. Plus, and this should be weighed on the same level as the economic argument, drilling in these areas fouls nature. Must we inject more blights on our environment, more warts on our planet, to power our iPods and other electronic gadgets? OK, that may be a low blow, but my point remains the same. Nature versus human wants. And nature always loses. In this case, however, there is a better path, one that makes more sense economically, for the future security of this country and morally.

And that choice is to invest heavily in alternative energy. We have the minds. We have the money. We have the technology. We need the will.

Can we summon it?"

So, can we?

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