My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


The New Agenda, part II

Last week I began talking about a series of specific measures that the GOP could begin trying to push to re-invigorate the party. With a nod to the Alito nomination, I began with Border Security as the starting point of the new agenda. Tonight, I will continue the series with . . . .

[cue drumroll]

Energy Reform.

While I think the Congressional GOP's failure to get drilling in ANWaR is a colossal failure of leadership and another discouraging sign of party confusion, I don't, in the long run, consider it to be much of a long-term loss. Why?

Because my thinking is that by the time ANWaR was pumping out a noticable amount of oil, our dependence on oil as a source of energy should be dramatically reduced. That's right, I think the President, and every Republican candidate for anything ought to be talking about finding a replacement source of energy to reduce our need for oil.

And I'm not talking about merely increasing fuel efficiency by 30 or 40, or even 50 percent in our cars. Do you really want to see a revolution? Increase fuel efficiency by 30 or 40 FOLD.

You don't want drilling in ANWaR? Fine. But you do want home heating bills reasonable--especially in light of our local energy supplier, Xcel Energy, saying heating bills this winter should increase by an average of 33% --right? So, how you gonna do that?

I'm not delusional. I'm not imagining some Star Trek-like discovery of matter/anti-matter interaction that could be an endless source of energy (though that would be cool, wouldn't it?) By the same token, in 1961, President Kennedy said we should go to the moon--AND WE KNEW NOTHING! But, by the end of the decade, the Eagle had landed. So, I'm not automatically going to write off American inventiveness in the face of a crisis. But, in the meantime, it seems like there are a series of steps that could be taken to improve our lot.

Number One: start using other sources of energy. Specifically, nuclear power. France right now generates 76% of its electricity from nuclear power; do you suppose such a contribution from a non-fossil fuel source just might--MIGHT--lower the costs?

Number Two: increase current refining capacity simply by standardizing the oil used throughout the country. Yes, that is a government mandate "from on high;" but it is absurd that current refineries have to devote so much of their time and resources to accomodating some 23 different gasoline mixtures that the different states around the country require. Force-cut that list down to 5, and see if the country's oil refining doesn't get more efficient.

And Number Three: devote serious resources to coming up with new technologies to dramatically reduce our need for oil--not just foreign oil, either. Oil. I don't know what's out there, and I don't think anybody else does, either; but isn't it time we got serious about looking?

First of all, why this? Well, we've all seen the drag that oil prices have on our economy. And even though the current price at the pump is back down to pre-Katrina levels (I drove past two gas stations tonight whole price is $2.26 for reg Unleaded), the effect on the stock market of the past couple months was noticeable; and, just as importantly, the effect on the psyche of the American consumer was profound. At the same time that this one commodity holds such an inordinate sway on our economy, most of that oil comes from a region of the world that is, at best, unstable and, at worst, openly hostile to us. So why not find a way to send less of our money to that part of the world? Finding an alternative to fossil fuels could have both a significant benefit to our domestic economy, while at the same time having a tremendous effect on our security.

Benefits? Other than the obvious, here's where politics comes into play. The building of and operation of nuclear power plants generates jobs and stimulates local economies. And, frankly, there's plenty of empty land in Colorado, and while some of that is spectacularly beautiful, some of it is also mind-numbingly barren. On top of that, it just so happens that Colorado is home to the National Renewable Energies Laboratory; what better triumph for a Congressman or Governor to say that they've secured an addition $15 billion (or whatever) for the local economy thanks to a huge increase in federal funding for NREL. And, if it so happens that NREL discovers something significant, you would imagine that that would have its first testing ground somewhere in the vicinity of the actual laboratory.

I realize it is not a perfect plan--for instance, there's the issue of nuclear waste. But right now we have smog and greenhouse gasses--there's always a price which we have to figure out. In the meantime, somebody needs to get this debate started, and put it on the agenda as a problem to be solved, rather than an issue to be wring our hands about.

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