If we are serious about reducing our addiction to oil in these United States, then we must take a more analytical approach to determining the problems and potential solutions. Perhaps greater that the addiction itself is the cure: politics has entered every facet of life so as to convince us that every solution must contain a political element.
Long before political systems existed scarcity was controlled by the market. In our case, we have an enormous demand, or addiction, for petroleum products, and consequently feel the pinch of scarcity. Some might argue that the politician could never be equipped or even adequate to the task.
If we are to discuss the issue rationally, we must all know and understand what components of petroleum products we demand, what the levels of demand for individual products are, what alternative exist or are technically feasible for those products, and finally what cost we are willing to bear in order to achieve a true reduction in our nation’s demand for these products.
Besides fuels, crude oil is the base material in literally tens of thousands of common things used daily by millions of people. Most of us would realize almost instantly that most lubricants are oil based; many recognize that plastics and synthetic fibers are oil based. The kids at the front of the class will point out that wax and asphalt are also made from petroleum.
But how many of us comprehend the full extent that petrochemicals have on our lives? How many environmentalists would suggest we abandon hand lotions, perfume, car tires, heart valves and ink? In the final analysis we must all agree upon which petroleum based products we are willing to give up to reduce our nation’s dependency.
Another factor in a rational discussion involves determining which petroleum product can have the greatest effect upon our oil demands. Clearly fuel and fuel products rank high. Of those fuel products, some are more easily converted than others; aviation fuels, for example, may be much more costly to convert or reduce than automobile fuels. A fruitful National discussion will likely conclude that the greatest impact can be derived simply by dramatically reducing our gasoline consumption in passenger cars.
Reductions of the magnitude necessary must involve technological innovations and National political leadership. Technologically Americans have ventured into space, but more importantly have sent vehicles to distant galaxies, without the assistance of fossil fuels. The time has come for our technological genius to be unleashed upon the passenger vehicle. To do so, however, requires extraordinary political resolve.
We must have leaders willing mete a simple mandate for alternative power, rather than greedily absorbing the automotive industry into the governmental fold with a misguide presumption that the government in any possible reality is capable of performing better than the private sector. The day must come when Washington issue a simple dictate that no import cars using fossil fuels will be permitted followed by a similar mandate for domestically produced vehicles. Such a simple declaration will cause private industry across the globe to rise up to provide alternatives in order to reach the lucrative American market.
But beyond the leadership required to facilitate technological advancement, we also need leadership to facilitate social innovations as well. The most obvious example of a social defect that contributes to the gasoline demand in this country has to be the literally millions of single passenger automobiles on our nation’s highways. Since none among us would be willing to give up our ride, it becomes obvious that we require a fundamental shift in our “mobility paradigm” in order to address the issue.
Far beyond the scope of this article are the serious discussions we must have regarding vehicle design, space management, city planning and the like. It is incumbent upon us to never leave to our political leadership the responsibility of dreaming upon our futures. Who among us is willing to relegate to any elected official the privilege of deciding what life will be like for us in 5, 10 or 20 years? If history is any predictor of the political mind, then we know that should we be willing to trust our future to the politician, then we will be rewarded with an overly expensive and dysfunctional future guaranteed only to upset all who participate in it.
What is appropriate is for us to embrace our duty to be our own guards of our future security. And what a glorious future that will be if we depend upon the imagination, creativity and ingenuity of the free citizens of these United States. Government is a fearful master that stifles the very creativity required to free us from the bondage we feel regarding oil. As any aspiring entrepreneur can attest, government regulation and interference in the creative process is so overwhelming as to discourage all but the most diligent. Since something as simple as a hot dog cart requires a business license, health inspection, electrical inspection, fire marshal permit, sales tax certificate, insurance, accountant, lawyer and candlestick maker; imagine the governmental barriers to any ambitious energy project like a nuclear power plant or high speed commuter train.
As any addict will tell you, before recovery can take place, you must re-assert yourself as the rightful master of your environment. In our country today, we must correct the master and servant relationship between the government and the people. As long as the government forcefully dictates to the people what papers they must have, how much they are allowed to make, and mandatorily take withholdings from the people and the business they work for, then the people are not free and the government no longer serves.
We are Americans, the people that crossed oceans for unknown continents and then trekked across those continents to uncertain futures. Today, however, we seem unable to function without governmental intervention. It seems like classic codependent behavior. Perhaps our addiction to oil is merely a symptom of a more fundamental addiction to government and government entitlement. If that is true, than the real solution to our oil addiction is to control our addiction to Washington; I recommend cold turkey.