Monday, September 11, 2006

Americans must unite to develop alternative energy

The Olympian
September 6, 2006

Contrary to popular belief, our biggest vulnerability as a nation is our economic dependence on foreign oil. Whereas our military protects us from foreign invasion and numerous safeguards have been put in place since 9/11 to secure our homeland, little prevents foreign dictators or rogue militias from cutting off our oil supply.

In today's era of peak oil production, even the smallest disruption of supply can increase oil prices to the point of hampering our economy. In the last year, we have seen prices spike after hurricanes, tensions in the Middle East, comments out of Venezuela and Russia and attacks by Nigerian rebels.

As Congressman Roscoe Bartlett recently stated, "The fact that we have only 2 percent of the world oil reserves, that we use 25 percent of the world's oil, and we import almost two-thirds of what we use represents a totally unacceptable national security risk."

When we buy oil, we support nations that have, as the White House notes, "unstable governments or agendas hostile to the United States."

Our dependence on foreign oil also forces us to deploy troops throughout perilous regions and prepare for threats from dictators whom we fund with our consumptive dollars.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already believes that "world oil production is at or near its peak." In a report published in 2005, they warned that, "Once worldwide petroleum peaks, geopolitics and market economics will result in even more significant price increases and security risks." Thus, with the world's finite oil supply, problems will arise not when we have run out of oil altogether, but simply when there is not enough oil to meet world demand, which is projected to grow every year.

In today's economy, we use oil to fill our automobiles and aircraft, fertilize and harvest crops, mine ores, produce goods and transport nearly everything that we produce. If this process was disrupted, our entire way of life would be upset. In order to avoid or at least assuage this impending crisis, we need to act now.

In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush explained that "America is addicted to oil" and "the best way to break this addiction is through new technology."

In order to preserve our destiny, it is time for us to once again innovate. If we can put a man on the moon and build a nuclear bomb in the face of adversity, we can certainly develop sustainable alternatives to oil.

Looking around the world, we already have promising starts in harnessing energy through biofuels, fuel cells, wind turbines, solar panels and even tide and geothermal activity. What we need is a focus from executive leadership with a clear challenge to unite us as Americans. Together we can develop sustainable alternatives to oil, and in the process, take away the power of militant dictators, improve our environment, support American workers, increase our nation's security and preserve the dream that we all share.

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