Monday, December 13, 2004

A retrospection

Writen to the NY Times (but not published) on September 2nd, 2002.


Wake up America! Are we going to war? Is the Administration a slice short of a pie?

The resurgence of patriotism that came from the terrorist attack gave the Administration carte blanche to plot our destiny. Their inability to cope with a fabricated, yet costly, energy crisis in California caused a knee jerk reaction by a group who, having come from the oil patch, could only find a solution in an oily bag of tricks. This has culminated in the lobbying of support from our Allies and Representatives in Congress for an invasion of Iraq.

I cannot but help wonder if our leaders have thought this through adequately. Perhaps they need yet another opinion, mine. I’m not a pacifist or a liberal. I tend to vote Republican, though I prefer a somewhat more Libertarian approach. I served as a Marine helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. Today I’m an investment banker who works with alternative energy, and my children are not of draft age.

I would like to know what the cost of an Iraqi invasion would be. Including the cost of the lives lost in such an endeavor. What order of magnitude are we talking about? In the Gulf War we had 148 combat casualties. We flew 18,000 missions. We lost 63 aircraft. Are we talking about 50 billion? 500 billion? One trillion? And that was a short war, one where our allies supported us.

Any invasion of Baghdad is going to cost much more. And the real result we are trying to achieve is energy security for the US. This has nothing to do with terrorism. Were it not for the amount of oil stored under Iraqi soil, I doubt we would bother with Saddam. Our entire foreign policy in the Gulf has always been based on keeping the oil spigot open. We tolerate repressive and unbelievably corrupt regimes in the Gulf because we have a symbiotic relationship with them. The human rights abuses we turn a blind eye to, would curdle the milk of a camel. Hypocrisy for Security is not a good slogan. Yet we really will never have energy security until we reduce and eventually eliminate our need for their oil. And replacing their oil with Russia’s or Kazakhstan’s or Venezuela’s is bound to prolong the pain. More than 70% of the oil reserves of the planet are under the soil of unstable and politically explosive governments. The North Sea is running out. Our Alaskan oil is but a drop in the bucket.

The solution is obvious. We need to terminate our dependence on oil. And the Kyoto Protocol has nothing to do with this. We are not talking about Global Warming; we are talking about Security in its truest sense. Protecting our way of life. For 40 years we have known that hydrogen was the fuel of the future, but vested interests have kept us using oil. Unfortunately Hydrogen is still not ready for prime time. But we are getting closer, much closer. The bulk of our oil needs are to power automobiles and to produce electricity. Just a few years ago, the automobile manufacturers scoffed at us for suggesting such a thing as a hydrogen powered car. Today they are all scrambling to produce fuel cell vehicles, as Toyota and Honda start selling Zero Emission Vehicles in California this year. All it took was a few Japanese car manufacturers to scare Detroit into action.

On the utility front, we also have solutions. Renewable energy. Europe has taken the lead here, and many countries are working towards producing up to 20% of their electrical needs with renewable energy. We could do the same. In fact, we could beat Europe by a long shot. We have more wind, more sun, more geothermal, than Europe could hope for. We just have to get behind the idea and support it wholeheartedly.

What if we took part of the money we were going to spend on the invasion of Iraq and spent it on tax credits for renewable energy? What if we took part of this money and spent it on supporting research into new technologies in energy? What if we created a Nobel type prize and gave a million dollars every year to whoever invented the best breakthrough technology in energy?

We would spend a fraction of what they would spend on a war. We would achieve energy security in our lifetime. We could balance the budget. We would empower students and teachers instead of rock and movie stars. We could hold our head up high and cease to be hypocrites. And best of all, the oil producing countries would have to find gainful employment in order to live in the lifestyle they have become accustomed to.

1 Comments:

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