Wednesday, February 13, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 92



Proposed energy bill misses the target

Matthew E. Caster

If the United States has learned one thing since Sept. 11, it is that, with the possible exceptions of Israel and Jordan, the Middle East is not the place to look for trusted allies. Sixteen of the 19 hijackers were of Saudi Arabian descent.

Iran and Iraq are two governments in President Bush's "Axis of Evil" that, if given the chance, would kill every single American on Earth if they could. Kuwait, the same nation 500,000 Americans saved from Saddam Hussein a decade ago, has announced sympathy for bin Laden's cause and stated its belief that Americans seem to enjoy making war against Muslims.

It's hard to believe we still give most of these nations money. Why? Well, they happen to be sitting on a huge lake of oil.

This week, the U.S. Senate begins debate of the Democratic proposal for American energy policy over the next decade. The bill's primary focus is on conservation and continuing research into high-tech energy sources, such as solar and wind power. The bill completely tosses aside any reasonable perception of reality, thus filling tree-huggers with glee.

This energy bill seeks to reduce American dependence on our three greatest sources of energy: oil, coal and natural gas, which currently produce approximately 70 percent of the energy we use, a recent survey by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stated.

More startling, however, was the commission's finding that even with maximum funding and research for these "greener" energy sources, U.S. dependence on fossil fuels would actually increase to almost 80 percent by 2020, simply because of increased demand.

What are we supposed to do to make sure that doesn't happen? Perhaps we should buy those new hybrid automobiles that get 78 miles per gallon and accelerate from 0 miles per hour to 60 in 5.7 minutes. Or maybe we should raise taxes and prices on energy, encouraging people to consume less. Of course. Let's have the government dictate exactly how much energy we're allowed to use.

What nonsense. While it is absolutely true that environmental concerns need to be addressed with regard to our energy policy, pursuing this conservation-only approach will ensure our summers are spent like California's last year.

The most sensible solution is to kill two birds with one stone. To hell with the Middle East and that lake of crud ... Let's see if they can get away with charging 28 bucks a barrel when we aren't buying any more. Things will get crazy over there when American oil dollars aren't funding schools that teach anti-Americanism.

The way to eliminate the treacherous Middle Eastern states from our energy policy is to fill our needs by use of other sources. One potential source is the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, perhaps the largest untapped energy source on earth. Survey after survey, including one last May by the Department of Energy, has shown that well-constructed energy exploration, collection and transportation devices have a negligible environmental impact. The moose are happy, and we help keep our energy prices down.

If we still come up a little short, we can always buy oil from our new buddy Vladimir Putin. Russian oil sells within Russia for about five dollars a barrel. Take that price to the pump, and we're paying 65 cents a gallon for gas.

Of course, exploration needs to continue into alternative power sources. Recent talk of fuel cells and cold fusion indicates that our long-term energy needs seem to be safe right now. But until those means are totally secure, reliable and cost-effective, our emphasis needs to be on exploration for new sources of fossil fuels.

Conservation modes like lower speed limits, hybrid autos and solar power can certainly help, but they just won't be enough for our nation's incredible energy demand.

Besides, who wouldn't want to see that pool of black gold under the Middle East turn into a pool of black goop? Maybe the North Koreans will buy it or something. God bless America.

Caster, a senior petroleum engineering major, 
can be reached at

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