Oil Drilling in the U.S.—-To Change or Not to Change: That is the Question

This is so very cool. GM is “leaking” photos of its new VOLT concept electric vehicle. So the car maker is finally reaching its goals, as stated in the 1980 first edition of The Cousteau Almanac, An Inventory of Life on our Water Planet. To wit: “The great car hope of the future, of course, is the EV. General Motors promises an electric car by the mid-1980s that will reach a speed of 60 miles (97) kilometers per hour and run 80 miles (130 kilometers) before needing a recharge. The company estimates that 10 percent of the cars on U.S. highways will be EVs by 1990.”

Word on the net is the VOLT will reach 120 mph and travel 40 miles before needing a recharge. Although there might possibly be some need for us to lay blame for the delay at the feet of GM (as if there already isn’t mounds of it there for other stuff) , we might as well rejoice and move on. Actually, I only even feel the need to highlight it at all in effort to say let’s not make a similar mistake with this “Drill Here, Drill Now”-let’s-just-drill-for-oil-around-FLORIDA,-THE-ROCKIES-(hey don’t worry it’s S-H-A-L-E) campaign.

Back to Cousteau. The 1980 almanac also says things about energy like, “A 1978 United Nations report concluded that solar cells would become cheaper

than nuclear power if mass production facilities were built with a total investment of $1 billion–less than the cost of just one large nuclear power plant.” Here we are 30 years later and yes, we’ve gone to the moon a few times and some people have solar panels on their houses.

My point is that we’ve delayed renewable energy enough already. We don’t need to further delay by drilling for oil in the United States. Maybe the hold up was due to lack of scientific advance, but that can be less boldly claimed since the appearance of headlines like this one from Dailygalaxy.com: “MIT Scientists Mimic Plants’ Energy Storage System -Discovery to Unleash Solar Revolution“.

But I believe that if the science wasn’t there sooner, it wasn’t because it couldn’t have been. The nurtured garden grows. Some gardens grow wild, but the nurtured garden grows. Renewable energy sources have been deliberately avoided, and now there are suggestions to further resist by drilling for oil in the U.S.

The current presidential race has begun to encapsulate the energy debate, which has begun to define the state of American progress in general. The rest of the world is waiting to see if the ever-cool, slightly-grungy brother in the world family will actually begin using a napkin. It’s pretty clear that more supporters of McCain promote drilling at home and than do Obama supporters. Economic arguments are being made in favor of drilling for oil at home. I read these online: 1) we are sending money oversees that could stay in the U.S.; 2) the oil market is currently being manipulated.

But economic observations are not goals. Free markets are tools–tools most usefully implemented when there are not clear societal preferences. It makes no sense to pursue an energy policy rooted in an economic argument. I appreciate economics and free markets. However, as a nation we need to grow up and start assigning values first–and only then, secondly, unleashing the forces of supply and demand. I have to thrown in here that if oil markets are already being manipulated, how will drilling at home change that? Here in Texas, energy is sold using the “spot market” and we pay just about the highest prices in relation to our usage in the country.

Again, back to Cousteau’s Almanac. Because no where else have I seen our situation on the brink of 2009 so well described as Richard Munson did in that 1980-edition of the Inventory of Life on our Water Planet. He wrote:

“And Finally, Catching Independence–Sweeping social change inevitably attends a shift to a new fuel base. In the eighteenth century, the substitution of coal for wood and for draft animals paved the way for the Industrial Revolution. The shift, just fifty years ago, to petroleum prepared civilization for the jet plane and the automobile, which shrank the world and reshaped its settlements. The coming energy transition will brink far-reaching changes of its own.”

Mr. Munson continued:

“According to Denis Hayes, Director of the Solar Energy Research Institute and former chairman of Solar Lobby, the choices are clear: ‘Tapping some enregy sources demands ever-increasing centralization; solar resources are best used at dispersed locations. Some dangerous sources can be permitted widespread growth only under authoritarian regimes; solar energy can lead to nothing more than a leaky roof. Some energy sources invite profiteering cartels; solar sources would tend to narrow the gap between rich and poor–both within and among countries. Some energy sources will tend to reduce the size of the work force; solar sources promise large numbers of new jobs. Some energy sources involve technologies that baffle all but a few specialists; solar energy can be harnessed by individual home-owners with simple devices built of local materials.”

Mr. Munson concluded:

“Of course, our best energy investments are in improved energy efficiency. Yet no matter how much we conserve, we must develop new sources.”

Regardless of who wins the White House in November, change is a-coming. For those among us who dread change, take heart, Bob Marley said everything’s gonna be allright.