Lipstick? Let’s hear about an energy policy

Published 11:46 am Friday, September 12, 2008

While our two presidential campaigns have chosen this week to discuss the effect of lipstick on various rhetorical devices, I have decided to move on to something that they maybe should be talking about instead of hog futures … a U.S. energy policy.

Until perhaps the last decade I doubt many Americans realized that energy and national security are essentially the same issue. As the most developed nation on the planet, we consume far more than our share of energy, mostly fossil fuels. We are unwilling to consume less energy, so we need to have access to our energy demands.

Unfortunately, other nations have decided that we should pay dearly for our consumption. Additionally, economic growth in China and India has placed increased demand upon oil, along with coal, as our primary energy source. So now we fight in Iraq, a nation that may contain as much as 25 percent of future oil reserves, fighting to “liberate” the nation and free up its oil for our consumption. Hasn’t helped much so far.

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So energy and national security now must be seen as very much the same issue. But both of our presidential candidates seem to have missed both the urgency and the significance of this political truth.

Sen. Obama promises to invest $150 billion in research and incentives to change our energy consumption from oil and coal to less environmentally damaging and more sustainable sources of energy. But he has endorsed everything and nothing … vowing to drill, dig, turbine and shine with no direction to which might best drive us most quickly from fossil fuels.

Sen. McCain has suggested allowing the free market to respond to the demand for alternative energy, but so far that has not been very successful. Yet, with gas prices rising, there may indeed now be enough incentive to encourage development of other choices. But McCain talks mostly about drilling and nuclear and it is doubtful either will do much to free America from high priced energy sources.

We do know that if we could consume less it would reduce the price of energy. And if we could produce our own energy we could stop making the Middle East economically central to our needs. It seems then that our cars and homes might hold the answers.

This week U.S. automakers have asked the federal government to make loan funds available to them to get through these hard times. Well, I hate such bailouts, but I love incentives. I think we should loan any U.S. manufacturer the funds they need, as long as they guarantee to convert at least 50 percent of their production from gas to alternative energy within five years. Think it impossible? Hardly. Germany currently produces 2 million Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles a year. In Utah today CNG fuel sells for .63 cents per gallon. Now that is a solution.

Alternatively, Sweden has, for several years, used biofuel, human waste and methane, to power cars. The source has no current usage and is, can we say, endlessly available. The technology is already in place.

As for homes, we should offer free energy audits for any home and tax incentives for making a home more energy efficient. Let’s make Geo-Thermal more affordable by funding it with tax incentives for every new home built.

Now, we can vote for the candidate who best impresses us with their lipsticked pig talk, or we can vote for the candidate that talks to us about the real needs of America today.

In the last two presidential elections the pig talk won out…will it again?

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Ironton Tribune and is a former educator at Ohio University Southern.