Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due, However Painful
It seems I spoke too soon and before doing my proper research when I said that none of our leaders are speaking out about Peak Oil. On October 17th 2005, seven Republican members of the House, led by Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), brought the issue to the House floor. I’m just happy that I realized my mistake on my own rather that having it pointed out to me by one of my Bush loving stalkers, admitting a mistake is one thing but being forced to concede any point to a right-wing nut-job is an indignity I hope to forever avoid.
Following the lead of these forward thinking Republican Congressman, The Peak Oil Caucus was formed and a bi-partisan resolution was filed in the House on October 24th which reads in part, “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States, in collaboration with other international allies, should establish an energy project with the magnitude, creativity, and sense of urgency that was incorporated in the 'Man on the Moon' project to address the inevitable challenges of 'Peak Oil.'”
I must give credit where credit is due and Congressman Bartlett deserves some kudos for bringing the issue to the floor of the People’s House where it belongs. Yes, it should have been done long ago, but at least with Republicans bringing it up, our GOP controlled House may actually listen. The Democrats who signed on after the path was cleared, no doubt tell themselves this is precisely the reason they weren’t the ones leading the way. There may be some truth in that, but it certainly shouldn’t elevate them any in our esteem.
Now I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t find some fault with Republicans “doing good”, so here is the other side of the story. In a speech to the House in April of this year, Rep. Bartlett talked a bit about conservation and clean energy sources such as solar and wind, but he clearly favored exploring the nuclear and agricultural options most. The nuclear option, well let’s just say there are many unresolved problems surrounding nuclear energy production. Bartlett also stresses the importance of investing in agricultural solutions including soy diesel, methanol and ethanol. Although this is certainly a step in the right direction, growing our way out of an energy crisis may not be feasible considering how much energy is required for our current form of farming which is still oil based (oil to get the water to the crops and petroleum based pesticides). In an effort to reduce the cost of growing fuel, bio-diesel farmers would likely opt for the Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) route, and we simply do not yet know the full implications of this technology. Genetically modifying organisms in pursuit of fuel is certainly less frightening than when done with the food we eat, but one will most likely affect the other and the effects on the delicate balance of nature, of which humans are a part, are not fully known.
It is a complicated problem and will no doubt require great minds and great investment in new technologies to solve. At a time when there is so much rancor in Washington DC, I applaud Republicans who are willing to break ranks with their party and move away from violence as a solution to our energy needs and toward self reliant and self sustaining energy sources. As with most things, there are many different ways to go about finding a solution and Democrats better get in on the conversation before Republicans define the course of action. A philosophical chasm exists between a conservative and liberal approach to this crisis.
Republicans tend to favor solutions that will make money for those at the top regardless of the environmental impact and Democrats tend to favor more eco-friendly solutions that will not consolidate the power of controlling energy in a few hands. The Dems are late to the game and they have some ground to make up. There should be a focus on reducing our energy consumption, diversifying our sources of energy and incentives for individuals to provide for their own personal energy needs rather than focusing solely on a huge system of harnessing energy and delivering it to individuals that is centrally controlled.
Because the reality of Peak Oil is still not yet a mainstream topic, there is time for liberals to change to focus of the debate. Getting off of the war train is the first step, but Democrats need to simultaneously be honing a message of energy independence and a broad based solution that takes into consideration our long-term goals. A multi faceted approach to energy production carries with it huge benefits to our political and economic stability. I agree with Rep. Bartlett, the same level of money and commitment must be made to energy independence as was made to the “Man on the Moon” project, but how that money gets spent will make all the difference. The topic has been raised, now the debate must begin and our Democratic leaders need to fight to win. Whether we, the people, prosper from our national effort depends on how any new system is structured. Republicans will fight tooth and nail for a top down solution, leaving the power in the hands of big business and liberals must counter this with a vision of true independence; independence from foreign oil and freedom from reliance on energy companies who have exploited and ripped us off for years. If the Democrats can’t sell that to the American people, they may as well pack up and head home now.