Oil Addiction Distorts Senator’s Thinking
Senator Byron Dorgan’s Back Page [APS News, December 2007
] fell short of the frankness and completeness I was hoping for in dealing with America’s oil addiction.
Most glaring was Senator Dorgan’s statement of “…so they don’t disrupt our energy supplies.” It is not our energy. It is theirs! The Senator states unequivocally that America needs to “improve management of alliances to better secure global oil supplies.” This thinking is equivalent to China arguing for international pressure to ensure “their” corn, which happens to be growing in Kansas, is kept inexpensive so it won’t disrupt China’s economy. Our addiction to oil is distorting our philosophy for the worse.
Dorgan is arguing two main points: (1) increased energy conservation/alternative energy development, and (2) greater production of oil at home and strengthened alliances so import prices remain low. These two points are like arguing for both n and 1/n to get larger as n goes to infinity. To be frank, the American energy consumer will not conserve or arduously look for alternative sources so long as oil supply is plentiful which, in turn, keeps prices low.
By plotting the percent of energy consumption in the US that comes from renewable resources as a function of time, one finds the graph is flat from 2001 to 2005. It has stayed at about 6% (or 3% if one removes ethanol from a renewable classification). A sustainable, responsible, and secure future cannot be had until this graph shows a significant, positive trend.
Senator Dorgan did little to belie the false impression that corn-based ethanol is a panacea for energy independence and good for the environment. The explicit support for increasing “renewable fuels like ethanol” is disappointing.
Making progress with CAFÉ standards is good but will soon be negated by increased number of vehicles on the road. Why is the fundamental problem of population pressure on natural resources so absent from our political discourse? Senator Dorgan implicitly believes–along with many politicians from the President on down–that money generated by economic growth can be applied to fix any problem growth creates. This is just plain pollyannaish. One can argue economic growth does not necessarily imply population growth but disconnecting the two takes immense strain. Alan J. Scott Menomonie, WI