I have my pet peeves. I really hate roller-bags, people not walking down escalators, and discovering that Flex Fuel has been around for over 20 years and nobody bothered to implement it. My feelings are not limited to Flex Fuel, but all abandoned fuel economy technologies all together. The fact that a nation as wealthy as ours has not been implementing fuel saving technology does not bode well for our collective energy future.
First, let’s talk about the politics of energy independence, then we will talk economics. The politics are simple, renewable energy is homeland security. The best way to protect the country is to not depend on other countries that do not particularly like us. I’m no geopolitical genius or anything, but in today’s day and age, money is power. While we are rich as a nation, a lot of other nations are getting awfully rich as well. A very rich and powerful country could very easily hold us hostage by suspending our energy imports. Energy is a lot like national debt. We need oil to drive cars like we need a huge debt to keep taxes down. They both hurt the security of our nation. I really don’t think it is very wise to have most of our financial aspects owned by other countries, just like I don’t think we should be basing our economy around a commodity which is well past it’s half life (according to the US Energy Administration Association, we will run out of reasonably cheap gas by 2040, assuming $4 to be a reasonable price). So what do we do about these issues?
First and foremost: vote! Just look at the facts and see who you want to lead this country through the next four years. Vote for whoever you want, just vote. Another important thing we can do is push for more government regulation of the auto industry. According to author and president of the Mars Society Robert Zubrin, we have had Flex Fuel capabilities for over 20 years, but the economics of our situation have not warranted that we do anything. Government has a role in our lives, and if they can tell us that our analog TV’s have to be digital by 2009, then they can tell us our cars all need to be hybrids by 2015. I’ve always favored more government regulation (uh oh, the partisanship of my personality is starting to show, and I don’t bleed red), and the auto industry should not be exempt from these regulations. But there is a science to why we are still racing stock cars instead of pod racers. It’s called economics and evolution.
Evolution is amazing. We only evolve what we need to survive, that’s why the energy crises only instills a sense of urgency in me, not fear. Human beings have this amazing ability to adapt and evolve. The problem with evolution in todays society is that economic signaling replaces natural selection. The economic signals are starting to make their way into America’s collective conscience, and the automotive industry is responding. As Confucius once said, the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the next best time is today. This can be sorely misconstrued and taken out of context to support drilling in Alaska. While some of us live by the mantra “drill baby drill,” there is another half of us who are a little bit more relaxed that would rather we not drill now, nor ever again. The best time to be driving an electric car was twenty years ago, the next best time to do it is now.
Now the US government is ever so slightly beginning to regulate the energy economy. There are some bills being proposed like the Open Fuels Standards Act (it’s been overshadowed by another bill, something about a bailout or maybe it it was about a saving bulls or something…). The energy future remains relatively unclear. Will it be powered by electric cars? Perhaps Hybrids or hydrogen? I personally would choose bicycles, but I couldn’t see Dick Cheeney wanting to ride his bike to the White House in a suit. One thing is for certain, the market will decide. Let’s hope the government can guide us a responsible and self-sufficient energy future.
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Thanks to the Udall Legacy Bus Tour for the image of what I consider the true US Department of Homeland Security (under Flickr’s Creative Commons).