Monday, October 22, 2012

Heaven Or Hell

America for decades was considered the world leader. We had the greatest military, greatest industrial capabilities, greatest education and research and the greatest ability to mobilize on massively complex and daunting tasks at a moments notice.  To the rest of the World,  we were invincible... that was until 39 years ago this week when OPEC put into motion events that would cause a 400% increase in the cost of crude oil to more than $12 a barrel. (ya, that right... twelve dollars!!)

Despite great efforts to combat the price increases; The 55 MPH National Speed Limit, Daylight Savings Time, etc. Within weeks, it was obvious that the US Achilles Heel was Oil.  Oil powered nearly every self indulgent part of our wasteful society and without it,  our lives would ground to a halt, it became clear  we would pay any price.   What we failed to realize was that the higher pump prices was just the beginning of the higher cost of oil and by far the smallest increase.

This action by OPEC was essentially a reaction to our support of Israel during the Yom Kipper War and the "Arab Embargo" was ended when the US was able to negotiate a peace treaty among Israel and other Middle East Countries the following Spring of 1974. This can argubly considered our official expansion as the role of "World Peace Keeper" This action insured that as long as we continued to be totally reliant on oil, we were vulnerable and protecting that vulnerability was to take precedence over all else.  The real reason the Gulf War was started will probably never be admitted publicly but there is little doubt that the reason was to insure stability of the region that supplied the World with the oil we were addicted to.  Saying we did it over concern of the citizens of Kuwait is just a bit of a stretch especially considering we sat on our hands when one million Rwandans were murdered or when over one million people of Dafur were victims of genocide.

The answers to our energy question plays like a bible story.  On the one hand we have Oil. Its powerful, having much more power density than anything else on Earth. Its plentiful, convenient and available at a moments notice. It is the Devil's Solution.  Its cheap, but like any "Devil's Solution"; A penny spent on oil today creates a dollar of debt that society must pay back someday

The other hand are the "Fruits of Nature"  Solar, Wind and Water.  Provided by Mother Nature. Harder to harness, more expensive to produce, etc. But the supply is endless unlike oil. The Wind blows nearly all the time and we know why and we have even gotten to the point where we can predict when, where and how much.  Solar is the same way. After all the only impediment to Solar during daylight hours is clouds and we can see them coming days in advance.

But both technologies despite massive recent growth are young and a lot of money is needed to continue the growth. Unfortunately, there is now growing opposition to that funding.  Individual failures like Solyndra and A123 are being played up in the media as the "inevitable course of things" concerning green energy tech. This is scaring away investors making doubly tough to insure future growth when support may or may not be there.

Now, we can debate forever on the merits of "use the oil because we already spent the money to develop the infrastructure" verses spending the money now for green energy tech that will take years to pay back to get a real long term solution for our future.  But I will close with a parable instead

Thus, spend for no tomorrows -- or save for many.

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