Americans' energy views need refueling

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Online at: http://www.dallasnews.com/editorial/STORY.e9a896552d.b0.af.0.a4.b0e49.html 2001 DallasNews.com

Americans' energy views need refueling

10/21/2001

"We are all feeling helpless, and everyone wants to do something yet we are being told to go about our business as usual. I'll tell you what we can do. We can turn off the lights, buy smaller cars, walk instead of drive. ...We need to have the equivalent of an energy victory garden."

A New Yorker

Would the United States be involved in the Middle East if that region did not have oil? Yes. America is a global power with far-reaching interests and many international allies. But would our country have bolder policies if America were less dependent on foreign oil? The answer inevitably is also yes which is why America must reduce its energy dependence, especially upon distant sources. Many foreign policy decisions that have created ill will in the Middle East have been driven by the necessity of maintaining energy flows.

America's interests have been demonstrably tied to energy since the 1973 Arab oil embargo. Since then, however, U.S. reliance on foreign oil supplies has increased. Petroleum imports account for over half of domestic consumption today as opposed to one-third in the early 1970s. America imports 1.7 billion barrels of oil each day just from Saudi Arabia.

Calling the need for greater energy independence an issue of national security, President Bush asked Congress Wednesday to act on the energy bill the House passed in August. Undoubtedly, America needs new energy policies. But to really protect itself, the nation must adjust its voracious hunger for energy.

The Senate could start this process through addressing issues the House neglected. The list includes further raising fuel economy standards for automobiles, light trucks and sport utility vehicles. Congress also should create more tax incentives for advanced technologies.

More than these reforms, the nation needs a change of mind about cheap energy. America benefits from relatively inexpensive imports, but at the cost of our national security. To change this equation, American consumers need encouragement to use less energy and to pay a bit more for it. They also need to use more local and cleaner sources.

Lawmakers could help achieve those ends through taxing fuels based upon their environmental friendliness. Natural gas and alternatives like wind power would carry lower taxes than petroleum products. The result could be more use of sources like the large natural gas supply at Texas' Bossier Field, which will get extracted only if prices are right.

Given the current uncertainty, Congress cannot pursue this idea this fall. But lawmakers could enact it next year, thereby offering a faster way to meet growing energy needs than new Arctic drilling would. Meanwhile, Americans can take that New Yorker's advice and use less fuel by obeying the speed limits, checking tire pressure, tuning their cars, and setting home thermostats lower in winter and higher in summer.

Global interdependence is good, but the United States cannot allow energy demands to risk holding its foreign policies hostage. On this matter, the minds of both American consumers and policy-makers must change.

-- Swissrose (cellier3@mindspring.com), October 20, 2001

Answers

This will never happen. The Washington established dunderheads have been talking about this for 30 years. The grassroots voters in this country need to throw the bums out.

-- David Williams (DAVIDWILL@prodigy.net), October 20, 2001.

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