Sunday, August 3, 2008

A new Apollo project needed to solve the energy crisis

A new Apollo project needed to solve the energy crisis

Pete Ashdown
Article Last Updated: 08/02/2008 01:50:55 PM MDT

Last month we saw a Utah Republican congressional full-court press in favor of the oil and gas industries.
Heir-apparent to the 3rd Congressional District Jason Chaffetz flew to Alaska and returned with the startling revelation that the energy crisis was solely the fault of Democrats. First Congressional District Rep. Rob Bishop notified his constituents via a slick newsletter that we need more oil, gas and coal.
Finally, our senior senators joined forces to write an op-ed that gored the Democrats for all our energy woes, declaring all this country needs is a second dance with costly oil-shale and subsidized nuclear power.
With a dysfunctional Congress, both parties can claim a portion of the blame for high gas prices and a lack of sensible energy policy.
The question still begs as to what Bishop and Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett were doing to further their current goals for the oil industry from 2001 to 2007, when their party controlled Congress and the White House. It is more revealing to look further back to the much-maligned President Carter who, in 1979, during the first oil crunch, set goals for our country so we'd never see a second energy crisis.
Carter proposed that U.S. automakers attain a whopping 48-mile-per-gallon fuel efficiency by 1995. He demanded that we curtail imported oil by imposing fees. Finally, Carter proposed windfall taxes on oil
companies to fund alternative energy and a goal of generating 20 percent of our power from solar by 2000.
What happened? It would be nice to see an explanation from Hatch, since he was a three-year senator in 1979. His explanation not forthcoming, my presumption is Carter's visionary energy goals were tossed on the trash heap, along with the solar panels he'd installed on the White House, when Ronald Reagan moved in.
America then increased dependency on foreign oil and forfeited automobile innovation to Japan. Middle East oil-rich dictatorships went on to become even wealthier and more entrenched.
A small patch of Alaskan wilderness, coastal drilling, oil-shale magic, nuclear power subsidies, less regulation on fabulously wealthy companies - these will make us energy independent and gasoline inexpensive again?
How many times will we buy these fables before our elected officials are laughed out of office? What party repeatedly fought any increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards until a pathetic compromise of 35 mpg by 2020 was passed last year?
GOP mocking of Carter's energy policy has been redirected toward Al Gore, who challenged this country with an apparently hysterical goal of energy independence using renewable sources within a decade.
This country retooled its entire industrial sector nearly overnight in order to fight World War II. America fulfilled President Kennedy's challenge to land on the moon in under a decade. Yet become energy independent with renewable technology in the same amount of time? Sorry, we'll leave that kind of innovation to advanced countries like Brazil, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden.
Solving our energy problems by loosing the reins on the oil, gas and coal companies is a deal that requires us to forget 30 years of history. This bargain ignores the hidden health costs of polluted air and water and insists that consumption of energy is not correlated to the price.
In spite of their feel-good commercials, these companies are not here to solve our energy and pollution problems. They're here to make a profit.
America not only needs leadership that understands the full spectrum of energy sources, but also has the courage to seek the unknown again. The Manhattan and Apollo projects were not efforts undertaken for a profit.
Rather these projects are an example of an uniquely American way to solve difficult problems: Our best scientists were given a goal and full support to reach it quickly. Science is the solution to the energy crisis.

* PETE ASHDOWN is CEO of XMission, an Internet provider.

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