Recent civil unrest in North Africa and the Middle East has captured global attention, as many hope for more humane, democratic governments in that part of the world, while others express concern over what new leadership might mean for relations with the West. With large-scale unrest in a region so closely associated with oil production, it has been suggested that these events could impact energy markets, with an ensuing effect on Western economies. For many reasons, including a clean environment, national security, and economic stability among them, it is critical that we drastically reduce our consumption of oil as quickly as practicable.
It is frustrating to America’s people of goodwill, who look forward to a day when our Republic is free of its self-immolating addiction to oil, that big money often trumps doing what is right for the country and for the future.
A very interesting article in Renewable Energy News, by Dana Blankenhorn, spoke of knowing the enemy—the enemy being Big Oil. The focus of the piece was on being able to identify some of the stealth organizations that are funded by Big Oil and advocate its cause. But for me, what the article brought back to memory was that the Oil Industry has developed remarkable resources over the years that fight for its right to grow, make money and get the government help to do it.
It is the right and duty of Big Oil to do all that it can to increase shareholder value. But its right and duty is not consistent with the best interest of the nation. Our great free enterprise economy gives Big Oil the opportunity to compete in the market to sell its products. At the same time, it is the obligation of the solar and other alternative energy industries to figure out how to be competitive. As I have written before, it is economics, not policy, that should and will lead to widespread deployment of renewable energy. But government makes this difficult by giving into the lobbying initiatives of an industry that is operating in direct opposition to our National Interest.
I was at a conference years ago where most of the participants were for-profit executives with a few public servants. In a casual conversation, one fellow made reference to increase profitability and how that is the objective of all of us. One fellow in the conversation (WA state budget director) said, “Not all of us.” And we all laughed. Then he added the comment that made the conversation memorable: “For me, it’s the good of the people.”
In order to achieve “the good of the people”, government must be smart enough to look beyond Big Oil’s self-interested uber-funded lobbying efforts that would have us continue our masochistic addiction to oil. There should be a clear bi-partisan national policy to encourage economic clean and renewable energy and discourage use of oil, in the same way that we discourage use of tobacco. Yet billions in subsidies continue to be funneled to the oil industry. That must change to assure a stable continuation of the republic.