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A Casualty of Oil Dependence

Richard D. Masters, ICHC     September 2, 2005

     Few realize that the flooding of New Orleans was avoidable. The federal funds won by the efforts of the Army Corp of Engineers and designated for the strengthening of the levee system that protected New Orleans were used instead to help finance a war closely tied to securing foreign oil supplies. Now we are faced with the loss of a major city, at a cost greater than 9/11 and Hurricane Andrew combined.
     When our government places foreign nation building above our own -- to the point of losing an American city - then we must reconsider what we are doing. We are now engaged in a policy of perpetual warfare where the United States funds both sides of the conflict, one through taxation to support our military efforts, the other through a "prosperity tax" paid on every barrel of Muslim oil we import.
     But Americans need energy, not oil. If we are fighting a war for oil, we need to ask ourselves "Who are we fighting this war for?" and "Why are we not moving aggressively toward energy independence?"
     All international conflict appears to stem from oil greed or oil envy - and it would be relatively easy and profitable to remove our nation from this accelerating spiral toward disaster by building an all-electric economy based on renewable domestic energy. With wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, advanced battery technologies and production of electric fuel (hydrogen) via electrolysis, we could do this in as little as ten years.
     But look what we are doing instead.
     Our elected representatives behave as if they were owned by lobbyists from big energy companies. Their decisions are based on what is good for the profitability of the existing energy structure instead of providing for a new energy base that will secure the future of the citizens they are sworn to represent.
     So they diverted funds that would have ensured New Orleans' survival toward a highly-rationalized scheme to instill democratic ideals on religious fanatics, part of a desperate, incredibly cynical attempt to hang onto Middle East oil supplies controlled by brutal anti-democratic despots. They then wastefully piled billions onto a preposterous Midwest corn-ethanol corporate welfare scheme -- this after failing to provide simple production tax credits in 2004 to enable the financing of the next generation of wind power!
     Both the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a Stanford research group have shown that wind alone could power America many times over, but the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who plays a key role in sending our sons and daughters to fight in the oil-rich Middle East, waged a disingenuous personal war against windpower after accepting huge donations from the coal lobby.
     Instead of moving America toward energy independence, the so-called "Energy Bill" was used primarily as a vehicle to transfer immense wealth to big oil, coal and nuclear while tossing scraps to the cheapest technology available to put electrons on the grid: wind.
    The money spent on the Iraq war so far is equivalent to the cost of establishing hydrogen fueling stations across America. But all this pales in comparison to the enormous 'prosperity tax' placed on the American people by imported oil with the blessing of America's leaders.
     As we watch New Orleans sink and burn, and brace ourselves for further repercussions of dependence on centralized oil in the form of fuel shortages and damage to the economy, this should impress upon us the fact that we need better leaders. Leaders with vision who put love of country first. Leaders who refuse to sell themselves to the highest bidder. Leaders who are intelligent enough to recognize the path to energy independence is that which is most cost-effective. Leaders who will leave a legacy of prosperity, not ashes.
     But the future for America is grim unless and until we demand these leaders.
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