The clamor for SOMEBODY to do something about rising gas prices continues, particularly the election-season pressure from various lobbyists to persuade Congress and whomever is elected President to open up offshore drilling for oil. In my previous blog I commented on the likelihood of such a move to have any short term effect whatsoever. Now it’s time to consider the broader issue: is this move really necessary or desirable at all?
First a short review of history. The United States owes part of its economic success to the fact that abundant supplies of petroleum were discovered and exploited here. Petroleum trumped whale oil and became the fundamental source of energy for the transportation industry. That, in turn, was a major component of the rise in America’s fortunes. But production of oil in the US peaked in the early 1970s; new discoveries have not exceeded production since then. The US oil glass is more than half empty and the level of its contents is dropping. Consequently, we are now importing more oil than we produce domestically. In June 2008 two-thirds of our oil was imported, according to the Energy Information Administration. The United States, with 5% of the world’s population, consumes 25% of its energy.
So now the popular plan is to expand our offshore drilling so that we can use up our native supplies faster, right? The latest idea is to use up all our oil resources as fast as we can so that we can be thrall to the likes of Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria and the various middle-eastern powers as soon as possible? Just because we don’t want to pay $4+ per gallon of gas? Do you get the feeling that something is not right here? We are the world’s prodigals* and we want to keep it that way? Worse: the rest of the world wants to be just like us?
It is time we rethink what we are doing and where we are heading. It is time toÂ think like the prodigal son upon his return and mend our ways. We need to keep a substantial part of our oil reserves in the ground and under the ocean floor for when we really need it. We need to suck up and begin acting like adults, conscious of the legacy we will leave to our children. That means we need to:
- conserve energy at every reasonable opportunity, particularly energy derived from carbon-based fuels;
- double, triple, or quadruple our search for more sustainable energy resources;
- reject frivolous and/or politically motivated calls for business as usual–business that cannot safely continue as usual.
Enough with the prodigality, let’s repent and get to work (without actually driving there)!