Sunday, January 6, 2008

Breaking a promise: thoughts on energy independence.

When I started this blog I said I would at almost all costs avoid talking politics. But I feel I have to say something about the NH debates last night. I'm going to try to avoid the politics as much as I can.

I saw some of the GOP debate and all of the Democratic debate (not by design, BTW, just by accident. Much of it was expected and typical. I was impressed by some candidates, disappointed by many and I remain completely uncommitted.

One topic rankled me in what little I saw of the GOP debate: the idea of energy independence. I have heard things like this before, but I believe Mike Huckabee (for whom I honestly do not see me voting) suggested that our country undertake a space-race like mentality toward becoming energy-independent within ten years. It seemed like the other GOP candidates all but laughed at him, saying it was impossible.

No, no, NO! Stop thinking like that! I'm sorry, but the guy is right. And I'm not thinking about this from a global warming perspective -- again, I am not trying to get political here. But if we invest, really invest, in technologies that will make us less dependent on the Middle East and people like Hugo Chavez, is that not a good thing? Will it not be good for our trade balance and our economy? And might it spawn technologies that we cannot even dream of just like the space race did? (No, not Tang.) Won't it make the dollar stronger in the long run, perhaps stop a job drain and improve property values? (There, here's a dirt connection.) If there are tangential benefits such as greening then all the better, but I'm not advocating doing it for that reason.

I was almost sick to my stomach when I heard potential presidents say that we "can't" do something. This is the United States of America, the greatest nation-state in the history of this planet. To simply say "it can't be done" without even really trying is almost un-American. We've done the impossible before and we can do it again. And while I understand we must also have other priorities as well, I see nothing wrong with the idea of investing in ourselves and our nation's future and our nation's independence. Left, right or center, I hope we can all agree on that.


Corporate Real Estate said...

This post reminds me of a great Robert Kennedy quote - "There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were and ask why not." Too many people get stuck in the thought process of assuming that things couldn't exist or be better, or else they already would be. Instead, a better approach is to envision how you would like things to be, like energy independence, and then see what steps each of us can personally take to achieve that. Our country is a far different place than it was when everyone willing gave up foodstuffs like butter and other natural resources to support the common good of the war effort in the first half of the 20th century. It's going to take a lot of positive thinking to get us back on track and I know we can do it. Spread some positive thoughts and they'll be sure to propagate.

Ok, I'm stepping off my soapbox now :-)

BawldGuy said...

David -- I agree, but from a little different angle.

Tree huggers, global warming fanatics, and the rest of the Kumbaya crowd hasn't figured out what will work -- guaranteed.

Here are some suggestions.

1. Stop saying you want energy independence while simultaneously blocking the most intelligent sources, i.e. oil, nuclear power, etc.

2. Conserving your way to energy independence hasn't sold in the last two generations -- stop trying, we're not buying.

3. Stop talking for a second, and look what IS working -- of all things, high rise buildings. And they're being developed by your #1 perceived enemy -- corporate America.

3. Why are giant commercial buildings now eagerly embracing 'green'? Just one reason: it either saves them money or makes them money. Get a clue and modify your approach accordingly.

4. Stop trying to scare us or claim everything under the sun is another crisis. This approach, to be kind, has reduced your credibility at best, and made your movement the punch line of jokes at worst.

5. Nuclear power is one of the main answers to America's potential energy independence -- you know it and we know it.

6. Put Mankind first instead of everything else. We might begin to trust you then.

And that's the short list. :)

David Stejkowski said...

Here are some additional thoughts:

I'm not really into the whole conservation thing, at least not much. (Some say the huge SUV in our garage is proof!) But I see nothing wrong with those who choose to do so. It is not the 100% solution, though. Only new and enhanced existing technology will be.

I am a strong advocate of nuclear power and improving existing technology and inventing new technology. Make it financially worth your while to do it, and guess what? The means to that independence will come.

I started learning about global warming in 1991 when I was a research assistant to one of my law professors. (The book I worked on is called "The Gnat is Older than Man".) I was skeptical then and I still am now. The doom and gloom stuff irked me then and it still does 17 years later. To some extent I think it reeks of arrogance.

I do not understand why we cannot simply decide that we will not let the Saudis and thugs like Chavez have the ability to wreck our economy. (Were there enough negatives in that sentence?) Let's take a Howard Beale attitude and prevent these people from having any control over us.

OK, I guess the politico in me is coming out now. :)

bawldGuy said...

About 13 years before your researh job, a best seller titled, The Coming New Ice Age (or thereabouts) foretold of our demise through cold. Those authors are the same two guys now in the forefront of man-caused global warming.

It kills me I can't remember their names. I'm too apathetic to look them up. :)

David Stejkowski said...

And I am too apathetic to go look in my professor's book. :) All I know is this: lots of people thought Paul Erlich was right in 1968 and we're all still here.

Lisa Michelle Galley: said...

My $0.02: Frankly, any politician who takes a stance that energy independence within our lifetime "can't be done" is already a weak contender, is woefully ill-informed about the current science and technologies today which could make it possible or just a muppet for some fossil-fuel conglomerate and their sovereign counterparts. Or maybe all of the above. Regardless of your political or personal philosophy on environmentalism, energy security is an urgent, pressing issue requiring national leadership domestically and internationally. Oil energy experts have already been advising the US government that the US's continued disproportionate energy consumption patterns and its related dependence is the thorny road to international tensions and economic collapse in the coming years as petroleum supplies (and their corporate and sovereign suppliers) become more volatile. Many practical technologies that we could use to combat this problem already exist and are ready for immediate implementation -- they just need the same high level policy and funding champions that the fossil fuel companies and oil producing nations employ to preserve and promote their own interests. Again, I do not think that you have to "believe" in environmentalism these days in order to go along with the argumentation. Finally, having an energy supply and consumption strategy that stresses independence from fossil fuels would be a good cornerstone for conducting 'peace' politics with our international neighbors with more credibility. There are friendly nations, such as Germany, who are leaders in this area. Cooperating with them and other leaders on this particularly strategic issue would be an excellent way to conduct great foreign relations and reduce the US's vulnerability to this gaping risk. Ok, time to hop off my soapbox, too....

David Stejkowski said...

Lisa: thanks for your very thoughtful comments. I hope you had a wonderful time in Germany! (My German is far too rusty to even try writing in it here. :))

Lisa Michelle Galley: said...


And Happy New Year to you, btw. Germany was awesome -- there's nothing like marrying into a family that's really into schnapps and sausages. And I do stress the 'really'... :-)