Self-interest won’t fill our gas tanks

When I read Marilyn Musgrave’s June 12 Soapbox (“Fueling solutions to high prices”) in the Coloradoan, I imagined a scene. Uncle Sam, representing all Americans, straddles two chairs at the all-you-can-eat Energy Buffet. He’s gorging himself on hard-boiled Hemis, charbroiled coal croquettes and the new entree, corn carbonado. He’s grown enormous over the decades, now tipping the scales at 300 million people.

Enter Congresswoman Musgrave, a capable waitress, who politely asks Uncle Sam, “Can I bring you anything else?” He dabs his greasy blue lapel with a napkin and replies, “Everything you’ve got.”

Always the dutiful servant, Musgrave springs into action. She orders more oil by overriding environmental protections of U.S. coastal waters. She hollers for a bigger kitchen of refineries built in a hurry by ignoring air-quality standards. For dessert, she had to abandon serving Pie-in-the-Sky, a rare treat from oil shale, because no one knows how it’s made. Fortunately, there’s Baked Alaska, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Uncle Sam is satisfied, for now, to pick from the platter of pabulum.

Missing from Musgrave’s article is the word “less”. Don’t bother looking for the word “conserve,” either.

You also won’t find “pragmatism.” Musgrave refers to “tapping our abundant domestic resources” as one of her “excellent short- and mid-term solutions.” Huh? The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that oil from these sites would hit the market around 2017 and peak around 2027.

Musgrave appears unaware the United States holds only 1.7 percent of the world’s proven reserves of oil (CIA World Factbook). We could litter our countryside with wells, leave our beaches awash in crude and still have no real impact on the price of a fill-up. Furthermore, ANWR at peak production would reduce the cost of gasoline by less than 4 cents per gallon.

Cries for more domestic oil drilling deceptively imply that we Americans will accumulate our own supply and withhold it from other nations to be consumed by Americans alone. That’s not the way the system works. Any oil discovered will be sold on the global market to any buyer at a price determined by global demand.

Here’s truth: With 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States consumes 25 percent of the world’s energy, an imbalance that hasn’t affected us until recently. But now, China and India frequent the Energy Buffet, bringing insatiable appetites that will only grow. So, let’s face the fact: It’s time for Uncle Sam to diet.

Forward-thinking, slim-down ideas abound, such as more aggressive increases in car mileage standards (I recently rode in a London cab, a spacious and fast diesel sedan – no Mini – getting 55 miles per gallon) and greater incentives to state and local governments to develop ride-sharing programs, bike-friendly city plans and more public transportation.

Icing on the cake (not served at the Energy Buffet): bold initiatives to burn less energy can deliver a spectrum of benefits, such as reduced dependence on foreign oil, lower carbon emissions to help fight global warming, billions of dollars not flowing overseas and progress in America’s obesity and health-care crisis through cleaner air and more people walking and biking.

We need political leaders that serve us the truth – even if it’s unappetizing – and promote smart and real solutions, not heaping plates of political self-interest.


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