More than 20,000 suggestions on how to stop the oil spill in the Gulf
of Mexico have been received by British Petroleum since its Deepwater
Horizon oil platform went up in flames this spring.
But some of us are wondering, what comes after that titanic rip in the
ocean is repaired?
If theres any justice, BP will come to be known as an acronym for the
ruined company that took us Beyond Petroleum.
No one is torching their Suburbans or Hummers over this, not even
along the coast of Louisiana, but its no stretch to say that public
revulsion and disgust is gushing on par with the Deepwater Horizon,
and beneath that rage is the realization that were as addicted to an
ugly substance as any crack addict. Oil runs in our nations veins,
seeping from our wallets, clouding our skies and fouling our lungs.
Scenes of pelicans, fish and sea turtles slathered in petroleum slip
through the airwaves on the nightly news, along with the greasy sludge
reaching the Gulf shores. It seems beyond reason that this toxic
horror show will drag on until August at best; and if the leak isnt
fixed (a funny word for it) the lard engulfing our shores could run
all the way from southern Texas to the currents sweeping
Massachusetts. Possibly even to Europe.
Last week, there was an endless barrage of blah, blah, blah on the
tube as the cable news parrots criticized President Obama for not
looking angrier about the disaster.
But would you look angry if you were getting ready to stick a knife in
a wild pig? Or would you look calculating? Our president must know
that to do anything meaningful about the situation with BP (short of
launching a cruise missile at their headquarters in Westminster) will
require tossing the world of deepwater drilling, imported oil and our
existing car culture on the junk heap of history.
Thats when youre going to hear some real howls from the public, who
want Big Government to handle the oil spill, but with no meddling in
what it takes to fix this disaster for all time. Even now, some
job-dependent residents of the Gulf are complaining about the 6-month
moratorium on deepwater drilling, despite the crud that‘s gumming
their beaches and killing their fish.
Still, at a time when shouting Drill, baby, drill now seems an
obscene joke, we have an historic opportunity to use our rage to
transform the world.
It has happened before. Sort of.
During the energy crisis of the 1970s, when OPEC put a cork in the
amount of oil it was willing to sell to America, our government
created CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards to increase
the miles per gallon that automakers had to achieve before bringing
their vehicles to market. The idea was to improve the mileage of
vehicles nationwide and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
CAFE standards raised mileage on passenger cars, but Congress gave
light trucks and SUVs a break under the rationale that it didn‘t want
to create hardships for farmers, who were locked in their own farm
crisis at the time.
That decision allowed CAFE standards to become a bit of a joke: Once
the oil crisis of the 70s was over, Americans ditched their small
cars -- the miserable Gremlins, Pintos and LeCars -- and migrated en
masse to light trucks and SUVs, which get terrible mileage to this
And American automakers have pissed and moaned ever since the 70s
that they can‘t compete with higher CAFE standards, all while the
Japanese and Koreans have captured the small car market doing just
that with imaginative, stylish vehicles.
The current CAFE standard for automobiles is 27.5 miles per gallon,
with 22.5 mpg for SUVs and trucks. It will rise to 35.5 mpg by 2016
But since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, there‘s at least one
proposal for a mileage increase of 40 mpg for all foreign carmakers
within the next two years, with U.S. carmakers to follow suit within
two years after that. Now is the time for President Obama to go on TV
and look really, really, really angry and pitch the idea to a riled-up
Our president could also mobilize the nation with a World War II-style
commitment to electric vehicles. Our factories in Detroit turned on a
dime in the early 1940s to build tens of thousands of tanks and
bombers. Why not electric cars? Dont we taxpayers still own 60% of
General Motors? Why not put them to work in order to put the BPs and
oil tyrants of the world out of business?
Of course, that would probably mean uttering the n word, meaning a
renewed nuclear power program to get us off our dual coal addiction
and provide the electricity for those vehicles. The new generation of
nuclear power plants currently being built in France and China are
smaller, safer, and consume much of their own nuclear waste. Given
the problems of fossil fuels, nuclear power deserves a second look.
A commitment to electric cars would also mean reinventing the nations
power grid to accommodate massive amounts of solar and wind energy.
All told, think of the potential jobs -- not to mention the health of
our nation -- just waiting for the words, Lets move beyond