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Other Voices: Greed drives U.S. energy policy

There is no energy crisis in the United States. There is for sure a serious greed/addiction problem. There are many similarities between drug addiction and oil addiction. If one looks at the entire chain of events in the addictive drug world, you can find its counterpart in the oil world. There are pushers who seek wealth, power, and enslavement and there are hopeless addicts who are in total denial that they have a problem and will do anything to satisfy their need.

The U.S. now imports 60 percent of its oil. There is ever increasing competition from India, China, and Latin America for these limited worldwide resources. Without these imports, we would go into a severe economic depression. The majority of oil is used for transportation. Every Congress and president since Carter has called for American energy independence, but it never happens. There are “for sale” signs on most Washington politicians’ doors and the pushers know this. The mileage standards for our vehicles have declined during the last five years. The 9/11 attack should have been a loud wake-up call for energy independence; instead it became clear that Bush and Cheney are pushers who will do anything to keep the status quo. Rice once had an oil tanker named after her when she was on Standard Oil’s board.

The proven technology (hybrid) exists to increase the fuel efficiency of our entire transportation system (cars, buses, trains, and trucks) by 35 percent without sacrificing luxury or cost per mile. If one figures in the cost of our 50-year military presence in the Middle East, the cost of heath problems associated with burning all this oil, the cost of acid rain and corrosive effects from smog on just about everything – the real cost of a gallon of gasoline is more like $10 per gallon. There are other proven technologies that are even more efficient than hybrids. The pushers have no interest in kicking our oil addiction, and the oil-guzzling users are in total denial that there are alternatives. There is a lot of money being made by the status quo, and they do not want change.

I believe that the answer is nuclear power. We do not have to build any more nuclear power plants that produce the most deadly, indisposable toxins imaginable with “half-lives” of 10,000 years. We already have all the nuclear energy we need 93 million miles away – our sun. In 48 hours, more solar energy hits the earth than all the energy from all the oil that has ever been burned or still exists in the ground. The nay-sayers, addicts, and pushers scoff at harnessing this power – too expensive and impractical. In reality, solar power will come down drastically in price with mass production and national political leadership. Oil should be conserved for jet fuel, plastics, and chemicals – not wastefully burned.

If the amount we are spending on the Iraqi war were placed into large-scale photovoltaic production and installation, we could end oil imports in 15 years and leave those backward Middle Eastern religious zealots to fight amongst themselves. Yes, better battery technology, fuel cell advances, and a hydrogen distribution system would have to be developed – but it is all within our reach. Think of the jobs and new industries that would be created. We could be the world leader and U.S. companies could patent and export this technology.

Today, Japan and Germany are far ahead of us in this field. Unfortunately, the pushers and addicts are so entrenched that none of this will happen in my lifetime; the solar industry has no political lobby. It would take big, creative thinking at the national level and this silver-spoon pusher in the White House now is incapable of thinking outside his narrow oil world. That world is where the Bushes have always derived their political power. So sit back, get yourself a cold one and watch as the American Empire corruptly extends its tentacles into hostile third-world countries searching for every drop of liquid gold they can get their hands on. Am I an optimist or what?

Michael Schwalm is a general contractor who lives in Lake Wildwood. He has lived in Nevada County with his family for 10 years. He holds a degree in mathematics and is a pilot.