Try Coming Up With A Real Answer For Once

It’s no secret I’d like to see the gasoline-powered engine head the way of the buggy whip.  And while I continue to call $4 a gallon gas little more than consumer rape (Try the $8 a gallon they pay in Europe.  I’m surprised there hasn’t been a few civil wars over that yet.), I am glad to see the auto industry pushing harder to build more hybrids, flex-fuel engines, electric cars, and…  Dare I say it?…  Hydrogen?  (GM plans to shift its hydrogen fuel cell program into high gear sooner rather than later.) 

But all that’s the long-term.  Even assuming GM’s first fuel cell vehicle goes into limited production by 2012, it will be in limited numbers until the price falls in line with current technology.  In the meantime…

I keep hearing the same rank stupidity whenever domestic drilling is brought up.  “It won’t produce anything for 3-10 years.  And it won’t drop prices.”

Um…  Can I have whatever you’re smoking?  Sounds like some really whack stuff.

First off, not producing anything for 3-10 years is not an intelligent objection, let alone a legitimate one.  3-10 years is actually much later than we need domestic oil.  Far be it from me to praise George W. Bush, the Warren Harding of his generation, but George got it right when he lifted the executive ban on offshore drilling.  Let’s be honest here.  What makes the people who object to this think the Saudis, Iranians, and Venezuelans are going to be any friendlier in 3-10 years?  And what good will come of staying with them when gasoline hits $5 or $6 a gallon?  Yes, we need to get off crude oil, but it ain’t happening in the next 3-10 years.  On the other hand, maintaining the status quo while we wait for the auto industry, British Petroleum, and Shell to change over to ethanol, hydrogen, and electric is inviting a few more planes into the upper floors of some very tall buildings.

Assuming the airlines are still in business to supply the hijackers with planes by then.

To the latter point, explain to me how not having to ship oil by tanker across multiple oceans – already proven to be an environmental risk greater than drilling itself – is going to run up the price of oil.  It’s not.  Here’s the problem with that theory.  Even if oil still goes higher, at least domestic supplies will keep the profits here.  The problem is we’ve been sending money overseas to people who don’t like us much, and people we don’t like much, either.  You tell me what’s cheaper:  A few rigs off California?  Or the Saudis turning off the taps.

At some point in the next decade or so, America and Europe are going to turn off the spigots, or at least turn them way down.  At that point, no one will care what the Middle East or Venezuela thinks of the rest of the planet, other than…

“Hey, buddy.  Got a bite to eat?  We’re starving over here.”

Until then, we need to bring the oil home and stop pissing off the rest of the world because we’re too self-righteous to drill our own.

Guess Who’s Scared

The Saudis are demanding OPEC cut its prices, saying that the current price of oil is too high.  Meanwhile, it’s Arctic drilling vs. alternative fuel in Congress while Americans tighten their belts as $5/gallon gas becomes a possibility.

Sure, when their biggest customers were still buying SUV’s and taking long trips, the price of crude was fine.  When they start talking about drilling their own oil, burning less gas, and maybe putting something else in the tank, suddenly, those prices are outrageous and unfair.

Too bad Putin…  er, um, I mean Medvedev…  isn’t friendlier toward the US.  Run a pipeline under the Bering Sea into Alaska, and suddenly, gas is $1.80 a gallon again.  Right now, that would be an expensive price cut with the way the Kremlin uses oil.

Look, it’s time to write off one of those places we don’t want to drill, at least in the short term.  The nation can’t afford not to.  But it’s also time to kiss the gas-powered motor goodbye.  No, I don’t subscribe to the peak oil theory (although we will eventually run out), but wouldn’t it be great to be wrong about that and not have it matter?  “Well, gee, we only need it for plastic, and we’ve got more than enough for that.”

We’ve sat on our hands for too long.  We can’t afford to any longer.

At $4 A Gallon, We Really Should Be Getting Off This Ride

The 1930’s had several infrastructure projects to drag us kicking and screaming out of the Great Depression (and promptly back into a recession in 1937, but that’s another story.)  The 1940’s had a world war and a world to rebuild to push the country forward.  The fifties brought us the Interstate highway system, the sixties the moonshot.  The eighties ended the Cold War while the nineties brought on the Internet.

See a couple of decades in there that are missing?  We did squat in the 1970’s, and we’ve done damned little in the 2000’s.  And hey, guess what!  The economy sucked worse in both decades than any time since the Great Depression.  You’d think the War on Terror would be paying us dividends in new technology and new businesses, but it hasn’t even paid off in dead terrorists, just a dead Bill of Rights.

Meanwhile, this past weekend, I just dontated the Wintermobile and the flex-fuel engine I was going to put in it (until my mechanic massively dropped the ball, though, thankfully, not the engine) so I could go buy a gas-sipping Dodge Neon.

I paid $40 to fuel up the little thing.

$40.

I used to spend that a month on the WIntermobile’s V-6.

This was the first time I actually bought a car because of its mileage rather than its functionality or price.  Oh, the Neon is roomy enough.  And at 26 mpg city/36 mpg highway, it’ll still be cheap when gas hits $5 a gallon.

It occured to me though that this may be the last fully gas-powered car I may ever buy, assuming nothing bad happens to it between now and the day I pay it off.

Or will it?

Barry, Hill, John, one of you is getting a new job in January, so you and your prospective sidekicks listen up.  This is your Civil Conservation Corps, your Liberty Ships and Marshall Plan, your highway project and moonshot, your new Internet.  You’re going to get us off the oil merry-go-around.

Now.

We’ve done enough hand-wringing and finger-pointing already.  Meanwhile, oil continues to head for $150 a barrel.  Even if that prediction turns out to be hysteria (which would not surprise me), there are too many reasons to keep making the CEO of Exxon happy.  Frankly, I couldn’t care less if Exxon’s CEO’s family starves and he has to live in a shack.  I still have to go to work, heat my house, and put food on the table.  He’s in my way.

There are too many things that should already be in the works.  For starters, we’re an oil society.  And we’re not going to get off oil anytime soon.  There’s oil in North Dakota, off the shore of Alaska (which, environmentalists, is not the size of Rhode Island, so quit playing the spoiled wilderness card.  There’s more wilderness than oil, and we’ll only need it for a few years anyway.)  We need to get off of oil, but we need to get off foreign oil first. 

There’s part of your energy policy.

And then there’s ethanol.  I think we all know by now ethanol is not a magic bullet, but it is a short term solution.  The more ethanol we burn, the less crude we need.  Hell, I’ll pay a little more for my Fritos if it means I get a cheaper, cleaner fuel that doesn’t make every city over 500,000 people in this country a terrorist target.  And here’s a cool money-saving idea:  If you legalize hemp to make all the stuff we used to make out of hemp before some dumbass Congressman watched Reefer Madness and decided hemp was evil, wicked, mean, and nasty, you suddenly have a cheap, easily grown source of biofuel.  It grows just about anywhere, makes great ethanol (better than corn and cheaper than sugar cane), and, since it’s inedible beyond seasoning hippies’ brownies, leaves the corn and sugar for putting food on the family.  Which would you rather have?  A few more potheads?  Or a few more Saudi-funded terrorists?

There’s part of your energy policy.

Electric?  GM and Toyota finally figured this one out.  The same batteries that run your laptop can be used to run your car.  Granted, they need to be a little bigger, but it beats those trunk-hogging lead weights that take longer to recharge than run down and have made electric cars next to useless for anything bigger than a golf cart.  GM has even stated that, even though not all the technology is here yet, they have to push for plug-in hybrids and electric cars.

There’s part of your energy policy.

Finally, anything and everything we have should be thrown at making this a hydrogen-based economy sooner rather than later.  We should be putting the same effort into making this happen as we did going to the moon.  And hey, whaddaya know!  We’ve got a moon program again that’s probably not as expensive in 2008 dollars as the original was in 1965 dollars.  Which means you can take some of those expired tax cut dollars and start funding hydrogen research.  We know it’s doable, just not how yet.

There’s part of your energy policy.  You listening Barry, Hill, and John?

I hear all sorts of reasons why this isn’t working now.  No one has ever sufficiently explained whether the obstacles can be overcome.  Well, no one’s told me anything credible.  Usually, I get “Well, this has this type of problem…”  (So what?  Everything has a problem.  Deal with it.) or “There really isn’t global warming.”  (Um…  Never mind.  If you can’t figure it out by now, you’re doomed anyway.)

All I know is I’m pumping $4 a gallon in my tank to pay rich executives who neither deserve it nor care about anyone but themselves and to countries that hate us.

And frankly, I’m sick of it.