Sky-rocketing gas prices threaten to sink our economy and are making life difficult for all Americans, especially those struggling along the margins to get by.
The solution to our energy predicament–a nation that comprises 4 percent of the world’s population yet consumes 25 percent of its energy–requires a comprehensive approach, one that aggressively pursues conservation, promotes the use of clean, renewable fuels, and invests in R&D for the next generation of alternative technologies. We must also use the regulatory process to curb excessive stock market speculation and begin a diplomatic offensive to encourage OPEC and other energy producing nations to increase their production for short term relief.
Congress has begun implementing pieces of a new comprehensive approach. Fuel standards for cars and trucks were raised to 35 mpg by 2020, the first increase in over 30 years. The House has passed tax incentives to encourage the commercial development of renewable wind, solar and geothermal sources of energy. Increases in funding for basic research on green technologies has also been provided, research that until recently had been cut to less than 20 percent of what was invested during the early 1980s. Those past federal research investments led to today’s hybrid technology and new funding infusions could lead to tomorrow’s technological discoveries, such as ethanol produced from cellulosic biomass.
One proposal gaining attention, championed by oil companies and the lawmakers aligned with them is to end the federal moratorium on drilling for oil off our coastlines. It’s an idea that seeks to boost oil company assets and future profits while giving no thought to environmental consequences and providing no relief to Americans at the pump for more than a decade.
The problem for the U.S. remains that we hold approximately 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves yet consume one-quarter of the world’s supply. Our domestic reserves pale in comparison to our consumption and moreover, approximately 80 percent of these reserves are already available for oil and gas development. The oil companies simply do not want to spend the money it would take to access these reserves they already control.
Achieving energy independence is a national priority, both for economic, national security and environmental reasons. Chasing a finite supply of off-shore oil through drilling is not part of the equation. Spurring innovation and investment in clean, renewable fuels through tax incentives for wind, solar and geothermal power sources are the keys to a cleaner, safer and more robust future.