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Front Page » December 2, 2008 » Opinion » The Wasatch Behind: All is well---like hell
Published 2,209 days ago

The Wasatch Behind: All is well---like hell


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By TOM MCCOURT
Guest contributor

Since July the price of gasoline has dropped by more than 60 percent. Here on the Wasatch Behind we've gone from a high of about $4.40 to near $1.80. The energy crisis is over and it's back to business as usual.

But we've been at this crossroads before. In the 1970s foreign oil was cheap and Americans took full advantage. We imported oceans of oil while allowing our domestic production to dwindle. And then, following the Yom Kippur War in the Middle East, the Arabs turned off the oil spigot. In their view we backed the wrong side by sending arms and ammunition to Israel. Our nation was in an instant energy crisis. The cost of gas went through the roof and we had gasoline rationing and long lines at service stations for the first time since World War II. Even our military was in deep trouble. We didn't have enough fuel for our ships and planes. The Arab oil cartel had us by the throat. It was a scary situation.

Luckily, the energy crisis of the 1970s didn't last long, but it taught us a lesson and some good things came out of it. We developed a strategic military fuel reserve to get us through the next short-term crisis, and we vowed to become energy independent as a nation. Never again would we be held hostage over oil.

But energy independence hasn't happened. Every president since Richard Nixon has talked about our need to be energy independent, but none has shown the leadership or the courage to take the necessary steps. Cheap foreign oil is good for business and it keeps the green people happy. Why drill in our backyard when we can buy all we want from the Arabs?

And so, every year we import more foreign oil and depend more and more on foreign despots like Hugo Chavez and fickle Arab sheiks to supply our energy needs. But it is madness to depend on such people to provide the economic and military life-blood of our country. Cheap oil isn't worth the risk.

Our most recent energy crisis serves as a reminder of the dire circumstances we are in. With oil over $150 per barrel and gas at $4.00 a gallon, there was a lot of talk about the need to be energy independent. We were shown once more that our economy is vulnerable and we have a potentially dangerous situation when it comes to national security. And it didn't help matters when some of our leaders showed how stupid they are by proposing to tap into the strategic oil reserve just to make consumers happy. That's not what a military reserve should be used for, ever.

And now the latest energy crisis is over, thank goodness. Gas prices are cheap and we can slip back into our old familiar patterns of importing foreign oil and exporting American jobs. We can go back to spending our money on social welfare programs and corporate bailouts. No need to invest in oil shale development or nuclear power plants. And we can save the planet and the polar bears by not burning coal. Let the Russians and the Chinese drill for oil. We'll buy what we need from the Arabs. All is well. All is well.

But one day soon there will be a big war in the Middle East, a coup in Saudi Arabia, or terrorists will block the straights of Hormuz to stop the oil tankers. There might even be another global war that could disrupt shipping lanes and change the face of world politics overnight, who knows? And on that day we will feel the full effects of not having a domestic energy supply. When the foreign tankers don't show up, our economy will be wrecked and our security threatened. Our very survival as a nation might be in jeopardy.

And so, we have one more chance to get it right. We've got to develop our own energy reserves and we don't have a day to lose. Wind and solar power are a worthy dream, but until those become a practical reality we need to develop all of the fossil fuels available to us, and we've got to do it now. Domestic fuel might cost a little more, but what is freedom and economic security worth?

We've been given a second wake-up call. We can't afford to go back to sleep on this issue.

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December 2, 2008
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