Recently I happened upon the Senate Environment and Public Works committee’s hearing on the science of global warming, and unfortunately I only caught the opening remarks. I was struck by Senator Kitt Bond’s comments; they so irked me that I felt compelled to rebut (albeit my rebuttal will not mirror Senator Bond’s remarks).
No doubt that Senator Bond is hearing from his constituents that their budgets are being gravely affected by the precipitous rise in gas prices over the last several months. Of course the price of fuels is adversely affecting everything else that we purchase so the damage is compounded. However, there are several dangerous attitudes and policies that have brought America to this crisis level. First, the denial that oil is a non-renewable resource coupled with the fact that we have so much space in this country. Secondly, the free market so proudly expounded by Republicans is addicted to graft which has encouraged stagnation and greed rather than innovation and true resourcefulness. Finally, this republic needs to live up to its ideals and think forward rather than cling to the same old decaying matter.
As President Bush so simply stated, we are addicted to oil. Therefore, anyone suggesting that more oil is the answer is concerned at best with winning political points for a seemingly quick, short term solution or at worst appeasing their lobbyists. More drilling is not the answer for the current sharp increase in oil; as we have not been able to grasp with the failed war on drugs, the problem isn’t supply. It is our unceasing, constantly increasing demand (coupled with growing worldwide demand). Not being intimately knowledgeable about the worldwide oil supply, I want to push the debate to the future. The supply may or may not have reached or surpassed its peak; it does not matter because the oil will not flow forever regardless of its current status. The other growing economies in this world will be vying for oil just as we are. Another regime change could cut off supply drastically tomorrow. Therefore, it would behoove us to find cheaper and less detrimental forms of energy. America should lead by example in this front, but we first have to recall that neither drilling for oil now nor creating new energy and transportation infrastructure will produce instant relief.
Producing this new infrastructure would create new industry and jobs, however. What a wonderful solution to the jobs Senator Bond spoke of being shipped off shore. My region, too, has seen the loss of good paying manufacturing jobs; these jobs have been replaced by low paying service sector jobs that rarely offer benefits or rarely have a full time work force. Although we have a few bright spots were a plant has actually hired new employees, the bulk of those employees are temporary, and any recent expansion or move to the area is incentivized by tax money. Our region is also incentivizing current employers who are threatening to relocate without the incentives. As tax dollars are already subsidizing the industry, the money would be better spent on creating renewable energy infrastructure and public transportation options like light rail or increased bus service in more suburban areas. Green collar jobs are the future of American industry as well as of our economic health and literal health.
Of course the most obvious way to prevent the hemorrhaging of good paying full time employment is to stop free trade deals that do not require reciprocal labor and environmental standards. Although this option would not likely effect fuel prices in the direct sense, families would probably be more able to cope with the increase if more Americans were fully employed rather than being either underemployed or unemployed. Furthermore, holding businesses to the high American standards for cleanliness would encourage them to innovate in order to maintain their bottom line which would reduce pollution and insufferable labor conditions worldwide (again not an instant fix).
Failing to let go of fossil fuels will leave this country crumbling; we cannot stand idly by, clutching our dirty energy security blanket. The American Dream is about living better than your parents, but we cannot, while holding on to any scrap of our ideals, pass the buck and let our future generations take the fall. Upholding our own labor and environmental standards will stanch the flow of outsourced jobs while helping to peacefully export our ideals. Ending corporate welfare will encourage American firms to undertake the task of weaning us off of non-renewable energy by fostering innovation and resourcefulness rather than encouraging stagnation and sloth. Times are not easy nor will they likely become any better until we free ourselves from oil domination.