COMMON SENSE REVISITED

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PERSPECTIVE: This is the fourth blog in the Common Sense Revisited* series. The subject matter deals with the failures of our government—Congress and the several presidents that have guided the country over the past thirty-five years. The views expressed are neither liberal nor conservative nor an attempt to impeach either political party. There are enough facts to suggest that all share in the debacle that has led this country to its current state. If there is a bias, it’s expressed in these six words—a plague on all their houses.
*title rights reserved
“These are times that try men’s souls…”
NATIONAL DEBT, ENERGY & JOBS
Since 2008, we have spent trillions to jump start the economy with little or no perceptible results. Meanwhile, in our nation’s capital our “leadership”— Congress and the administration— are arguing about the bar bill on the Titanic rather than focusing on the one major opportunity, energy, that can resolve the fiscal mess that they have created over the past 35 years. The country is at the cusp of an energy revolution, which if exploited will spawn a second industrial revolution.
The new exploration and drilling technologies have resulted in the expansion of our domestic oil and natural gas reserves. The recoverable natural gas reserves alone are estimated at 2,170 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). These reserves are composed of liquid and natural gas (LNG) which can be processed into propane, benzene, etc. The natural gas reserves alone can make the U.S. the number one producer and exporter of energy for the next hundred years, and solve our fiscal, GDP growth and unemployment problems.
In 18 years, the world’s energy requirements are forecasted to grow from 87 billion barrels of oil to 99 billion barrels. The energy revolution would add millions of jobs in extraction, infrastructure, support and service activities, and the cheaper energy could result in repatriating some of the manufacturing and service jobs that were ceded to other countries. The economies of the U.S. and the 33 states that contain shale deposits within their borders would flourish. North Dakota, at the forefront of the energy revolution, has an unemployment rate of 3.5%, well below the national average.
To put the energy issue in perspective, the U.S. consumes 7.3 billion barrels of oil a year (20 million a day), of which 4.2 billion are imported (valued at $ 336 trillion). Of that number, approximately 20% (valued at $70 trillion) is imported from the Middle East. A recent Goldman Sacks report predicts that by 2017, America will produce 10.9 million barrels of oil a day, and become the largest oil producer surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia. The increase will come largely from the shale natural gas and oil deposits that cover most of the country. By 2025, with a common sense energy policy, we could be self sufficient and net exporters of energy. That would wipe out the $336 trillion that we now pay foreign governments, and we would enjoy a surplus in our balance of payment account. Countries in Europe and Asia currently pay $8 to $12 for a cf of LNG, which is currently selling at the well head for $1 cf. The revenue potential from exporting oil and natural gas is enormous. The only impediments are the number of drilling rigs available, and the dogged determination of the environmentalist to frustrate progress.
Our energy policy should at a minimum encompass the following:
· Mandate that by:
- 2018, all new cars and trucks must be hybrids electric and natural gas or petroleum and natural gas.
- 2030, all cars and trucks be built to operate on clean energy sources—electric or natural gas.
· Mandate a minimum 50 MPG performance standard for all new cars and light trucks by 2020.
· Mandate that by 2020, all utilities, manufacturing facilities, large malls, and skyscrapers that now use fossil fuels switch to natural gas. All new homes and structures built after 2020 to use clean energy.
· Eliminate all subsidies to oil, ethanol and all other energy producers, and consider a program to subsidize the conversion of vehicles and homes to natural gas.
· Accelerate permits for drilling and infrastructure requirements—pipe lines, refineries, port facilities, etc.—provided that the producers adhere to a set of rational environmental regulations. The operative word here is rational.
We should continue to pursue the renewable energy initiatives with the realization that:
· 80% of our energy consumption is used to power vehicles, and there is no viable cost effective clean energy alternative on the horizon other than natural gas, and electricity (which requires a secondary energy source—natural gas, oil, coal or nuclear power—to generate in the quantities that would be required).
· The other forms of renewable energy have limitations, are not likely to be cost effective, and are decades away from implementation to make a dent in our energy requirements. We need a transition strategy to bridge the gap until the third industrial revolution—renewable energy—becomes a reality.
To assume leadership as a net exporter of energy, and to meet our clean energy needs, we require a dose of common sense applied to the environmental issues, and the leadership of Congress and the administration to make it a reality. Given the on/off situation with off shore drilling, fracture stimulation, and the Keystone pipeline, the application of common sense to the energy issue does not appear to be the order of the day in the nation’s capitol. Instead, the politicos are mired in the cesspool of special interests groups—oil, automotive, alternative energy companies, farmers, ethanol producers, and environmentalist. As long as these special interest groups are willing to fund the coffers of our politicians, we will never have a rational energy policy. The administration has adeptly delayed the Keystone pipeline until after the 2012 elections, a blatant maneuver to curry favor with the special interest groups that are against the pipeline, ostensibly because the pipeline would contaminate the aquifer which supplies water to the region. The facts are that 25 billion barrels of oil have flown through the 25,000 miles of pipeline within the Ogallala aquifer – 2000 of which are located in Nebraska—with no catastrophic effect. The morally corrupt politicians have traded jobs for votes and campaign contributions. Is it any wonder the people are disenchanted with the government?
Energy, jobs, national debt, and our anemic growth rate are today’s problems that must be addressed and solved today, if the country is to grow and prosper. The global warming issue is tomorrows’ problem, which, if there is actually a problem, will be solved tomorrow. Running the world on cost-effective renewable energy is a dream that should be pursued, but not at the exclusion of other viable clean energy resources. Once or perhaps twice in a century there is a game changing opportunity to raise the country and its people to the next level. The energy revolution provides the opportunity to jump start our economy, create jobs, become energy independent, solve our balance of payment imbalance, reduce the national debt, and stop importing oil from the Middle East. We have fought two wars for oil with a cost of trillions of dollars, and the loss of over 6,000 men and women. We are at the cusp of ceding our world leadership role because our so-called leadership is not willing to stand up to special interest groups and implement a rational energy policy that would revitalize the economy.
The special interest groups play a major role in stymieing the development and implementation of a rational energy policy. Our morally corrupt leadership has not risen to the task. Accordingly, the lone recourse left to the people is to demand a constitutional amendment that provides for a one-term limit—the president and Senate, six years, House, four years—with federally funded elections. The country would be better served if the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party adherents move their protests to the fifty state capitals, and demand that the state legislators call a constitutional convention to propose and implement the 28th amendment— one term limit and federal funded elections. The 28th amendment should be a priority for both groups if we are to sever the symbiotic relations between politicians and the special interest groups that fund their campaigns. Only then will rationality and common sense prevail in the nation’s capital.
“Throw the bums out” was the often heard refrain at Ebbets field in the 1930’s-40’s when the Brooklyn Dodgers fans were not satisfied with the performance of their team, a frequent occurrence in those years. Accordingly, it’s appropriate that the performance of our so called “leaders” be treated with the same refrain.
*title rights reserved

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