Friday, April 28, 2006

Why Energy Independence Is Important

The Bush solution to energy is: eliminate environmental safeguards, give full control of drilling to the oil companies and hope for the best. Sooner or later, America needs to plan for its energy future and the time is now. Our national security and our economic security depend on a combination of oil (which we cannot avoid for decades to come), an increasing infrastructure of alternative energy (far beyond current levels) and major investment in research and development.

For a moment, let's ignore the politicians in both parties who are using energy to do some lame grandstanding. The following story from Business Week might be overblown (given recent aggressive moves by Russia probably not) but it shows the dangers we may face if we continue down the road that Bush and Cheney have followed:
Russia's gas monopoly has issued a blunt warning to Europe not to restrict its expansion plans, after British regulators moved to tighten laws amid rumors that the Moscow behemoth was considering acquiring Britain's biggest gas distributor.

OAO Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller warned European Union ambassadors at a meeting late Tuesday that there were plenty of other markets where Russia could sell its gas.

"It must be noted that attempts to limit the activities of Gazprom on the European market and politicize the question of gas supplies, which are in reality purely economic, will not lead to positive results," Miller said in a statement. "It cannot be forgotten that we are actively developing new markets such as America and China."

Europe relies on Russia for a quarter of its natural gas.

The Gazprom statement appeared at odds with assurances Miller gave while in China last month, when he insisted that Europe would remain Gazprom's priority market. President Vladimir Putin had pledged to eventually supply China's growing economy with 80 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

While Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kuprianov insisted that current supply contracts were not under threat, he hinted that future long-term contracts could favor markets other than Europe's.

Whether democracy was Bush's real reason for going to Iraq or not (let's at least not pretend that Cheney and Rumsfeld ever bought into the democracy issue), his military adventurism has resulted in tighter world oil supplies and thus higher prices. A reckless disregard for the future of our country for the sake of immediate political expediency has permeated the current Republican leadership for some time. Their policies may put us into Europe's position sooner than we would like. Come to think of it, Europe's alternative energy policies are considerably further along than ours. Fortunately, our advantage is that we are still an oil producer though we have to import significant quantities to satisfy our needs (in a bizarre about face, Bush recently said America is "addicted to oil").

We can take control of our future but at the minimum it requires business and government working together for the common good (the common good does not mean the top 1% but the other 99%). Keep in mind that Ronald Reagan, though not my favorite Republican, had a policy of investing in computer technology in the 1980s. Think of it, under a conservative president, our government was involved in investing in computer technology. That concept may sound radical to right wing Republicans who claim to admire Reagan but it has paid major dividends for the past twenty years. John Kerry and other Democrats have talked about energy independence and have offered proposals, though the media has pretended not to hear them; so it's time for Americans to do their own homework and find out which party has a real energy plan and which one doesn't.

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