A Simple Plan

With gas prices now exceeding $4.00 a gallon, the spotlight once again is on alternative energy. Politicians are sitting on their high horses, pounding their chests, and proclaiming that it’s time for us to take measures to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Really?  Is this something new? Haven’t we been down this road before?

The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 to 1974, nearly crippled the United States. I remember preserving precious gasoline as if it were liquid gold. To help curb the demand for a limited supply of gas, our lawmakers implemented a program that restricted use. Basically, depending on whether the last digit of your license plate ended with an odd or even number, you could fill up your tank every other day.

During this embargo, two little known companies took full advantage of the situation. You may have heard of them. One was Honda Corporation and the other was Toyota. Domestic automobile manufacturers had no interest in fuel efficient cars. Performance was the driving force behind automobile production. Consequently, the embargo opened the door for Japanese auto manufacturers to “invade” the American market by providing no frills, fuel efficient hatchback cars that achieved 40 to 50 miles per gallon. In fact, one of the earlier Honda Civics was manufactured with a motorcycle engine.

As a result of this embargo, domestic auto manufacturers and politicians swore that we had learned our lesson, and never again would Arab oil producers hold us hostage. We vowed to not only produce fuel-efficient cars and trucks, we also made a commitment to explore alternative energy.

Needless to say, over the last four decades, domestic automobile manufacturers did keep their promise and engineer a wide array of fuel-efficient cars. We now have hybrids and compact cars that can achieve over 50 miles per gallon. But what happened to our commitment to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by exploring alternative energy?

Here we are in 2012, and we’re no closer to curbing our ravenous appetite for foreign oil than we were in 1974. The highways are still littered with four-door pickup trucks and gas guzzling SUV’s. And except for a couple electric vehicles, priced so ridiculously high that you could never get a return on your investment, we have done nothing to free ourselves of foreign oil. We spend trillions of dollars on waging war, but alternative energy is merely a political talking point.

Maybe we need to look at this situation from a different angle. Where do you think the money comes from that funds Al Queda and the Taliban? How do these terrorists groups buy weapons, train and recruit new members and continue to exist? You might not want to hear this or want to deny it, but every single time you fill up your tank, you are funding terrorism; contributing to their cause. Terrorist groups thrive because they are funded by oil-producing, Arab countries.

So here’s my plan. If we truly want to stop terrorism, we can’t do it with guns; it has to be done by cutting their lifeline to funds. The United States government should partner with all the major auto manufacturers and oil companies worldwide to initiate an aggressive plan for research and development of alternative energy sources. They should explore electric, hydrogen fuel cells, wind and solar. Now I realize that this is happening right now. However, the amount of money our government and auto and oil companies are spending on these programs amounts to chump change. We need to kick this into high gear and pump billions into this idea. Instead of funding wars and maintaining a massive defense budget, how about pooling our resources to make the internal combustion engine obsolete. Imagine what might happen if we were all driving vehicles that did not require gasoline.

Obviously, I am over-simplifying the logistics of this plan. We must  build a complex infrastructure and must also overcome a wide array of complicated issues to make this a reality. However, how much effort did it take to land men on the moon in 1969? How difficult was it for us to win two world wars? If we’re truly serious about fighting terrorism, then we need to hit them where it will do the most damage. And that is to cut their funding. The only way to accomplish this is to make oil a nearly worthless commodity.

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