Energy Crisis: America at a Crossroads
This isn’t our first energy crisis. The first one was during the winter of 1973-74, and there’ve been a few since then. But this one seems more permanent than the others.
Along with skyrocketing gas prices, we’ve got record high food prices, a housing crisis and a credit crisis. Everything seems to be coming to a head.
Past energy crises seemed to be part of a cycle. Everyone just waited for gas prices to go back down so they could rush out and buy an even bigger SUV; and everything would be “normal” again. I don’t see that happening this time.
Whatever is causing this fuel crisis — oil companies creating a fake “shortage,” treehuggers wrecking the economy by preventing drilling in wildlife sanctuaries — it’s here to stay. Even if we start a massive drilling frenzy yesterday, it’ll take at least five years (probably a lot longer) for this to affect the oil supply. Maybe we could spend that time expanding the solar/wind/ocean sources we’re already using. And just to be non-partisan, I think the Democrats’ plan for releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is every bit as shortsighted and boneheaded as the mass drilling spasm that Republicans want. We need to go through that unbearable excruciating withdrawal process NOW, and not keep begging the pusher for just one more fix.
We’re in for a rough several years no matter what we do, so we might as well seek a real solution instead of another band-aid. It’s time to start making some permanent changes that we should’ve made 35 years ago.
As much as gas prices suck, there are already a few silver linings. People are doing less driving and they’re starting to own fewer cars per family. Traffic deaths have decreased in the past few weeks because of our reduced driving. Mass transit, bike-riding and carpooling are up; driving by yourself to work is down. If these changes become permanent, urban sprawl will decrease (this won’t happen overnight) since it’s no longer lucrative to live out in the sticks and commute to your job 80 miles away.
People are doing more of their shopping locally. They’re actually patronizing their own rinky dink downtown mom-and-pop stores instead of driving twenty miles to the mall. A lot of tourist industries are doing fine. They’re getting more visitors from neighboring towns and fewer people who’ve driven or flown across the country; it all evens out. Last week’s annual Lavender Festival (it’s not what you think) in Sequim, WA had a record number of visitors. Local officials think it was at least partially because of high gas prices.
There have been all kinds of small but positive changes like this. Among other things: There have actually been reports of police officers getting out of their squad cars and — better sit down for this — walking their beat instead of driving.
Maybe, just maybe, these changes could become permanent. And maybe the banking/credit collapse will cause people to spend their money more carefully — differentiate between needs and “wants” and spend accordingly. (Go ahead, ask me what I’ve been smoking.)
Everyone laughs at Al Gore’s 10-year plan for getting off the oil grid. It probably isn’t attainable in ten years but it’s something we need to strive for. Since we’re already using solar energy, windmills and kinetic power from the oceans — not to mention methane and recycled waste — how far-fetched is it to just expand what we’re already doing?
T. Boone Pickens, the infamous corporate raider from the 1980s (and probably the inspiration for Gordon Gekko), is setting up the country’s largest wind farm in Texas. Has he turned into some sort of pot-smoking nature boy in his old age, or has he recognized another lucrative investment? I suspect the latter.
cross-posted at Bring It On!