Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | September 23, 2008

Lawyer Sanders says ending America’s sad addiction to imported oil is key to protecting and preserving American standard of living.

In his 2006 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush declared that “America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.” He boldly asserted that it was time for the United States to “move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.” The president set a goal “to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.” Our government predicts that just 18 percent of oil imports will come from the Middle East in 2025.

Today, America still uses twenty five percent of the world’s oil supplies. Incredibly, we import 70% of our oil at a cost of $700 billion a year – four times the annual cost of the Iraq war.  96% of the fuel consumed in our cars and trucks comes from oil.  We must find a way to lessen our dependence on oil, especially foreign oil if we are to survive as a world power rather than live as a debtor nation, who must deal with an increasing number of rogue nations supported by oil money that hate us.  It is really that simple.

As a starting point, we as a nation must end our government support of big oil companies in the form of tax breaks, subsidies, and other assistance. For years, big oil companies have prospered from tremendous financial assistance from the federal government and the time to end such financial support and preferential treatment is here and now. Second, we must carefully revisit and re-work the Carter Doctrine of protecting oil interests in the Middle East through the might of the U.S. military.  Without the protection of the military, American oil companies will move back to American based energy rather than stay linked to Middle Eastern countries. 

We must also promote conservation of energy in our country, especially with regard to cars and light trucks.  Inexplicitly, despite gasoline costing $4 per gallon, U.S. automakers continue to build bigger and more wasteful motor vehicles for consumers. That decision will ultimately lead to further erosion of their market to Japanese and Korean automobile makers.  Detroit apparently does not want to concede that no one wants (or needs) a Cadillac Escalade with shiny metallic spinners on 22-inch wide tires when it costs more than $100 to fill the car’s fuel tank up with gasoline.  That arrogance or ignorance will eventually doom Detroit, if the leadership of American automakers does not change its collective mindset.

Today, technology exists to dramatically raise the fuel efficiency of America’s motor vehicle fleet.  Even so, not one American automotive company has yet risen to the challenge of building smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles to help end our addiction to imported oil.  Unfortunately, despite losing billions of dollars in capital over the last several years, Ford and GM are content to let Toyota and Honda gain market share with hybrids and alternative energy vehicles.  However, it is clear that plug-in hybrids are the key to substantially changing our addiction to oil. 

It is simply a question of whether we as a society have the moral turpitude to make this necessary but fundamental change to end our addiction to oil.  Everyone in Kentucky should jump readily onto the bandwagon for plug-in hybrids because electricity is currently generated from burning coal and that technology is not going to be replaced in the short term.  Mr. Pickens’ high-tech wind mills may be the future, but coal is here to stay.

An alternative to imported oil is American-made ethanol.  The majority of ethanol used in the U.S. is distilled from corn.  This choice of this particular food crop to grow fuel is not a good one.  Just ask the Republican Governor of Texas, who flatly opposes using corn for fuel because it sharply increases the cost of feed to cattle and chickens.  It also takes more fuel and chemicals to grow crops than the amount of fuel that is ultimately produced from ethanol. 

Better choices for distilling ethanol would be non-food crops such rice straw, sawdust, urban wastes, paper mill wastes, yard clippings, molasses, castor beans, seaweed, alga, and plant wastes.   Perhaps the best solution for distilling ethanol is to make it from cellulose.  Cellulosic ethanol is the same as normal ethanol, except it is not derived from food crops.  Instead it is made from grasses and agricultural waste, such as the corn stalk rather than kernels of corn.   Cellulosic ethanol offers a promising alternative because it’s as clean and carbon-neutral as regular ethanol, but it doesn’t have the drawbacks of regular ethanol. However, because cellulosic ethanol is in the development phase, it is not currently available.   Out government must invest in this technology if we are to beat our addiction to imported oil.

If we do not start taking measurable steps to end our addiction to imported oil, we are going to have more wars, less stable diplomatic  relationships, a decreased standard of living, and more adverse global climate changes.  In short, we cannot survive as a nation in the mode we are used to and we must change if we are going to end our addiction to oil.  May God bless the United States of America and give us as a nation the willpower to make good strong decisions in the near term on energy issues.

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