Thursday, June 30, 2005

Smoking Bans Good for Business

The good news is that fewer people are dying as a result of cigarette smoking now compared to 10 years ago. The bad news is that the reduction is meager given the publicity the anti-smoking campaign has garnered in recent years.

In the five year period ending in 2001, nearly 438,000 people died as a result of smoking or breathing second-hand smoke. That’s only two thousand fewer than the five year period ending in 1996. But at least the trend is in the right direction.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that during the five years ending in 2001 the nation lost $92 billion in productivity because of smoking. Smoking related health care costs were more than $75 billion in 1998 alone.

The CDC said that smoking takes an average of 14 years off a person’s life. “Cigarette smoking continues to impose substantial health and financial costs on individuals and society,” CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said.

She also said, however, that the message is beginning to get through. Far fewer people are smoking these days than they were 15 years ago. That should eventually lead to fewer smoking-related deaths and, therefore, to less of a loss in productivity in the future.

Twenty years ago, smoking was so common that if a restaurant did have a non-smoking section it was usually the smallest section in the dining room. Today, that pattern is reversed. Most restaurants, if they allow smoking at all, have relegated the smoking section to a small isolated corner.

Of course, not all restaurants are following the trend. Small, family-owned restaurants sometimes do not even have a no-smoking section. On the other hand, a few such restaurants, such as Ann’s CafĂ© in Franklin have banned smoking outright.

The managers of some restaurants just don’t seem to get it. They have a no-smoking section, but put it right next to the smoking section with no dividers or separate ventilation. They seem to miss the point.

There are several such restaurants in Indianapolis. But, thankfully, the Indianapolis City-County Council passed an ordinance that will take place next March that bans smoking in all public places, including restaurants, if they allow children to enter. Bowling alleys are exempt for some reason.

More and more municipalities are starting to catch on that smoking bans in public buildings are generally well tolerated, if not outright supported, by a majority of their citizens. And the health benefits that come with such bans are enormous.

Now that Indianapolis and Marion County have taken the step to ban smoking in most restaurants, it is time for the donut counties to follow the lead. They should pass smoking bans as well.

Some restaurant owners in Johnson County have claimed that if this county passed a smoking ban, their patrons would just go to Indianapolis. That no longer is a good argument.

Here in Edinburgh, smokers might be tempted to go down the road into Bartholomew County to smoke and eat. But, eventually, the ban should spread like a wave from those counties that have already prohibited smoking. Eventually, most counties should have smoke-free public buildings.

We owe it not only to our own health, but to the health of our children to ban smoking anywhere that children are welcome. And that includes most restaurants.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Flag Burning is Ultimate Free Speech

The U.S. Constitution hasn’t been successfully amended in decades. The last attempt at amending it that came close to succeeding was the proposed Equal Rights Amendment which was passed by Congress but never quite garnered ratification by three-fourths of states.

The 27th Amendment was finally ratified in the 1990s, but it was passed by Congress 200 years earlier, so that one doesn’t count. No successful amendment has been passed by Congress since the early 1970s.

That hasn’t stopped the U.S. House of Representatives from trying on more than one occasion to push through an amendment that would ban the desecration of the American Flag, such as by burning it.

Back it the 1980s, flag burning was a more popular means of protest than it is now. Congress passed a law that forbade burning the flag, but the U.S. Supreme Court rightly decided that the law was unconstitutional. It violated the freedom of speech clause in the First Amendment.

Since then Congress has tried several times to change the Constitution by amending it in order to stop flag burners.

Last week, the House passed an anti-desecration amendment proposal as it has done five times before. It garnered more than a two-thirds majority even over the cool-headed logic of representatives such as Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. who said, “If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents.”

As before, it faces a dubious future in the Senate. Although both houses of Congress are controlled by Republicans and it is they who tend to support such restrictions of our civil liberties, the moderate Republicans in the Senate, along with most of the Democrats, are likely to prevent passage.

And even if it did make it all the way through Congress, it would most certainly die in the state ratification process. There is very little likelihood that 75 percent of the states would vote to restrict our freedoms that much.

Burning the American flag is a despicable act. Especially to those who have been in the armed services or who have family members who serve, the desecration of the flag is a major slap in the face.

But unlike a physical slap, burning a flag does not constitute battery. It is very similar to name-calling. And, in general, though it is a sign of immaturity, name-calling is protected by the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court has determined that the Freedom of Speech clause applies to other types of expression, not just verbal speech. It applies to the written word and to symbolic acts such as protesting and, yes, burning the flag.

In fact, it is absolutely imperative that in this country that values freedom above all else, its citizens must have the right to protest by burning the flag. It is our unique constitution that gives us the right to burn it.

Amending that constitution to take away that right would make it less unique. It would put us on the same level as China and North Korea, countries that do not tolerate anti-government protests.

Some House members understand that. But, apparently, the majority does not.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Freedom from Religion at Risk

I do not always agree with the Indiana Civil Liberties Union nor its national counterpart, the American Civil Liberties Union. I don’t always agree with the lawsuits they choose to file in the name of preserving our liberties. But I do believe in the broad goal of both those organizations, to protect and defend our freedom wherever it is trampled upon.

State Rep. Woody Burton disagrees with a recent suit filed by the ICLU against House Speaker Brian Bosma for allowing Christian prayers on the House floor. The name of Jesus was invoked more than two dozen times this year.

Burton believes it to be a free speech issue and accuses the ICLU of trying to restrict the freedom of speech of House members. In a letter to this newspaper he wrote, “…they are trying to take away our rights and the rights of our religious leaders to express their faith.”

Well, that’s an exaggeration at best. The ICLU and ACLU have backed freedom of speech and expression many times in the courts. If House members want to pray, they have a right to do so. But there is a time and place.

Since the State Capitol is a public building and the representatives are carrying on public business when the General Assembly is in session, if there are any prayers spoken at all they should be entirely ecumenical. The ICLU just wants to drive home that point.

But trying to keep things balanced when it comes to religion in the government is tricky. The ICLU isn’t siding with Allah over Jesus, for example. But if public prayer by government officials can’t be interdenominational, then they shouldn’t pray out loud at all.

U.S. Rep. John Hostettler of Indiana might see this as another example of “demonizing and denigrating Christians.” He used those words on the House floor in Washington last week in a reference to what he believes Democrats do.

An hour later, he took back his words on the House floor after a motion was made to strike his statement from the official records. But he later said he still stands by those words.

Another representative, who happens to be a Democrat from California, Nancy Pelosi, disagreed with Hostettler. “It's unchristian of Mr. Hostettler and anyone else to characterize other people in their comments about religion,” she said.

Is there, as Hostettler believes, a war on Christianity in this country?

Well, let’s see. Given the fact that both houses of Congress have conservative majorities, that more than 80 percent of the radio and TV opinion programs are led by right-wing Christians such as Pat Robertson, and that the President of the United States is a conservative Christian, I find that accusation to be somewhat exaggerated.

No, the war, if there is one, is nothing more than a meager battle by groups such as the ICLU to keep things in balance. Otherwise, we could easily end up like Iran, a very conservative theocracy.

There are many citizens out there who truly believe that the U.S. should be a “Christian nation,” in the sense that non-Christians should not live here. I have heard first hand from several fundamentalist Christians of their belief that the Founding Fathers meant for the Freedom of Religion clause to mean you have the freedom to choose specifically how you want to worship Jesus.

If there is an ideological war going on, it’s the war fought by the Christian conservatives against the freethinkers and those who believe in keeping religion, in any form, out of government.

A recent poll showed that 83 percent of Americans believe in God. Another poll showed that more than two-thirds of doctors, men of science, believe in some form of God and that more than half of them believe in an afterlife.

With numbers like that, I don’t believe religion is in much danger of perishing in this country. What’s more in danger of perishing is our right to have freedom from religion, especially as promoted by government officials.

Friday, June 17, 2005

A Rainbow of Ideology

What does it mean to be a democrat or a republican?

To understand what the two major parties represent, it might be helpful to take a broader look at the entire political spectrum. It might help to visualize a long stick, like a yardstick, that is balanced in the middle by your finger. Everything to the right of your finger represents the "Right Wing" of the political spectrum, and everything on the left of your finger represents the "Left Wing."

Starting on the far right would be political parties such as the Nazi Party. Far Right-Wing ideology is generally termed fascism. Fascism, as it is typically defined, is marked by extreme nationalism, with a tendency toward a desire to create ethnic purity. However, it is also marked by varying degrees of capitalism, but not democracy.

On the opposite end of the stick - the far left - there is socialism, and its more extreme incarnation, communism. Communism is the philosophy that the community (or nation) is central, and that individuals are not so important. It contains the premise that each individual should labor according to his abilities and be paid according to his needs.

Nobody "gets ahead in the world." Nobody owns property, land, or businesses. The government owns and operates everything, and divvies out the production equally to the populace, at least in theory.

Even though fascism and communism are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, they both require an authoritarian form of government. Both forms of government repress the individual in favor of a centralized and all-powerful state.

Closer to the middle of the yardstick you will find the radicals on the left and the reactionaries on the right. These are the typical "left-wing" or "right-wing" fanatics. An example of a reactionary might be a member of the Ku Klux Klan or the Neo-Nazis, or it might be someone like Timothy McVeigh. A less extreme example, a conservative, might be someone associated with the religious right, like Pat Robertson.

An example of a radical might be a member of the Black Panthers, or someone like Louis Farrakhan. The term “radical” was given to the anti-war protesters of the late 1960s who burned their draft cards and gathered on college campuses for “sit-ins.” A less extreme example, a liberal, might be someone who is a member of the gay rights movement.

Near the center of the yardstick lie the more moderate forms of government that most Western nations enjoy.

Most people say that America is a democracy. However, this is not exactly true. In a true democracy, everybody votes for everything; all laws of the land must be put to a referendum.

The U.S. is actually a republic. We elect representatives to pass laws for us. If we don't like the laws they pass, we vote for someone else in the next election, at least in theory. In practice, once you’re a member of Congress, you’re seldom voted out.

But everybody in America is not exactly dead-center on the yardstick. Those that tend toward the right wing are republicans, and those that tip the balance slightly to the left are democrats.

Although this is an over-generalization, democrats tend to be more liberal. They tend to favor equality of status. And to achieve this goal, they vote in favor of laws that create social programs such as welfare, Medicaid, and affirmative action.

Democrats tend to favor less government and greater individual freedoms, at least in theory. Most minorities tend to be democrats.

Republicans are more conservative. They generally believe in equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of status. They are more capitalistic. They believe that everyone should have an equal chance to succeed, but that government has no place helping them out.

Republicans also tend to restrict certain freedoms that democrats tend to grant. These include things such as abortion rights and freedom of certain extremes of expression. And republicans tend to have less tolerance for religious differences, being more dogmatic. Most conservative Christians are republicans.

The most thoughtful among us tend to take the best characteristics of both parties and meld them into a third option, that of being politically independent. Being independent doesn’t mean you have no opinions, it just means your opinions are strictly your own.

Independents never play party-line politics. Of course, they seldom get elected to office, either.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Enjoying a World of Food

Unlike my late father, I have always been one of the least finicky eaters on the planet. I would try almost anything at least once. And most foods that I tried, I tended to like.

Now that I’m well into my middle-aged years, however, I find that I’m fine-tuning my tastes a bit. There are now foods that I would just rather not eat.

Lately, though, my son and daughter, both of whom are in their early years of adulthood, have been taking me on a world tour of eateries, most of which are located in Indianapolis. I had no idea there was such a wide variety of gastronomy in Central Indiana.

It’s not like my family has to drag me to these quite disparate eateries. I go willingly. As I said, I’ve never really been that finicky, so I’m always willing to give something new a try.

But the more exotic and ethnic the foods are that I eat, the more I appreciate good old American fare. Not that I totally dislike ethnic cuisine, some of it is very tasty, I have just learned to better appreciate the kinds of food I’ve taken for granted my whole life.

Over the past few months, I’ve been introduced to a variety of new culinary delights. Take, for example, sushi. This is a Japanese treat that many Americans have taken to with great delight. I wasn’t impressed with it when I first tried it. But I have grown to enjoy it immensely. In fact, it is one of my favorite ethnic foods.

Then there are the Asian Indian foods. Most of them are flavored with some sort of curry sauce and have at least a slight kick to them. Although the lamb and chicken dishes are generally tasty, I find that the sameness in the flavor gets old after awhile.

I’ve also tried Scottish fare. I had my first taste of haggis recently at MacNiven’s on Massachusetts Ave.

Haggis is a Scottish dish consisting of a mixture of the minced heart, lungs, and liver of a sheep or calf mixed with suet, onions, oatmeal, and seasonings and boiled in the stomach of the slaughtered animal.

I know how it sounds. But it wasn’t really so bad. If you like corned beef hash, you would probably like haggis. It, along with a heaping helping of mashed potatoes and an equally generous portion of mashed root vegetables, made for a meal I couldn’t quite finish.

Across the channel from Scotland is Ireland. A downtown Irish pub, the Claddagh, is one of the restaurants we keep going back to occasionally. It has the best fish and chips (which is actually a British dish) and a shepherd’s pie to die for. Shepherd’s pie is a bit like beef stew with a big pile of mashed potatoes on top.

On Pennsylvania Avenue there is a quaint little coffee shop, the Abbey, which has some non-traditional sandwiches. I don’t know if they would be considered ethnic, but they are certainly unusual. My favorite is the smoked salmon wrap with cream cheese and onion. The latte isn’t bad, either.

Although, traditionally, spaghetti dishes are Italian, they are so common in America that, like pizza, spaghetti is often considered an American dish. Still, restaurants that specialize in pasta dishes are listed as Italian.

My favorite Italian restaurant is, and has been for decades, the Old Spaghetti Factory. Their mizithra cheese and butter sauce has no equal, unless it is their creamy clam sauce. These two sauces over a plate of angel hair pasta is truly a divine creation.

But with all the variety of lunch and dinner selections I’ve enjoyed over the past few months, my favorite type of food is breakfast fare. I still enjoy eggs, biscuits and gravy, and pancakes. And speaking of the latter, there are no better pancakes on earth than the blueberry granola cakes served at Le Peep in downtown Indy.

Excuse me while I go grab a bite to eat. Yum!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

If it is not Natural it is not Science

There are well-organized groups of people all across America today who have as their goal a watered-down science curriculum in public schools. They are the advocates of intelligent design, claiming it to be a valid alternative theory to evolution.

The focus currently is on Kansas, where the State Board of Education has been conducting public hearings on whether the concept of intelligent design should be taught along side evolution in high school biology classrooms.

But these menaces to scientific methodology are not restricted to that state. They are at the moment making some level of assault on the science curriculum in 24 states. They must be stopped.

They must be stopped not because of some dangerous cult belief system. Their beliefs are, if not mainstream, at least within the confines of Christianity. They are fundamentalist Christians who only think they know enough about science to inoculate the curriculum with their own variety of it.

But science is science and religion is religion, and the two disciplines are seldom easily blended, especially when it comes to question of how we got here. So what should be taught in the biology classroom?

There is one underlying postulate of science that makes up its foundation. It is that all laws of nature operate exactly the same for everything, everywhere, and throughout time. Science seeks to find natural answers to the questions of how nature operates. And without that underlying postulate, there would be no science.

It has thus far proved to be true. Galaxies that are billions of light years away seem to follow the same law of gravity that an apple falling from a tree on earth follows. But if we ever discover that the laws of nature behave randomly, or are at times altered by some supernatural entity, then science would collapse. Science cannot operate in a universe where the natural laws are unpredictable.

And, so, when we teach science in school, we must assume that all the theories of science are operating within the bounds of knowable natural laws. If we don’t understand how something works, and there is a lot we don’t yet understand, we don’t throw up our hands and say, “This must happen because of an act of God.”

It was less than 100 years ago that the theory of continental drift was first postulated by a meteorologist named Alfred Wagener. Before then, nobody knew what caused volcanoes or earthquakes.

Native islanders in various parts of the world, including Hawaii, thought volcanoes were brought on by the wrath of some god. They often sacrificed innocent people to the volcano to appease that god.

Scientists had no idea why volcanoes occur here but not there. They had no idea why they occurred at all. But they didn’t yield to the supernatural. They knew there had to be a natural answer to the question.

Eventually, they discovered that most volcanoes were caused by the action of crustal plates sliding underneath each other, or by hot spots in the earth’s mantle. Earthquakes and volcanoes were caused by what used to be called the theory of continental drift, but has since been modified into the more comprehensive theory of plate tectonics.

And so it is with evolution. Science does not have all the answers to evolution. What creationists might call irreducible complexity in organisms may be reducible after all.

But just because science isn’t able to answer all the questions about evolution yet doesn’t mean we throw in the towel and admit it must be God’s handiwork. God is a supernatural entity, operating outside the bounds of science. And, thus far, scientists have been able to explain away the hand of God in virtually every theory that He was supposed to dominate, such as the old theory that put the earth at the center of the universe, a notion held by the early church.

Eventually, researchers will come up with more of the answers that creationists ascribe to God. Indeed, the theory of evolution will one day join the ranks of the heliocentric view of the solar system, but not if we allow fundamentalists to weaken the science curriculum with their superstitions.

If it is supernatural, it can’t be natural. If it isn’t natural, then it can’t be science. And if it’s not science, however well disguised, then it does not belong in the science curriculum.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Is the Bible Absolute Truth?

Fundamentalist Christians believe the bible is the unerring word of God. But is it?

If the bible is anything, it is not an absolute. If it were, why would there be so many denominations, religious clubs all calling themselves “Christians,” yet disagreeing on virtually every point about salvation?

Consider this parable (not by Jesus):

A young woman is given a cookbook by her mother and told that it contains the best recipes. The young woman reads the introduction which states, “The recipes in this cookbook are the best and tastiest on the planet.”

The young woman grows up and uses her cookbook religiously, thinking all along that she has prepared the most flavorful dishes possible. But at pitch-in dinners, her friends bring competing recipes. She does not try them, knowing they are inferior.

When challenged to try them, she brings out her cookbooks and shows her friends what it says in the introduction. She tells them she knows her recipes are best because her cookbook tells her so.

Now, the bible is not a cookbook, but the analogy holds. Fundamentalists believe that the bible is unerring and is the infallible word of God. How do they know this for sure? Well, the bible tells them so. It’s the epitome of circular reasoning.

Fundamentalists say that God gave us the bible centuries ago. Actually, the early Catholic Church gave us the bible in the fourth century AD. A conclave of church bishops and lawyers got together under the command of Constantine I to decide which of the many manuscripts concerning Jesus would become part of their canon.

They left out many historic manuscripts and even destroyed them because they went against church dogma. Some of these were the Gnostic Gospels, a copy of which was found in Egypt in the mid-twentieth century.

So, does the bible reveal absolute truth?

Consider these passages:

Concerning theft, the bible says, “Thou shalt not steal.” (Ex. 20:15) And also, “And ye shall spoil the Egyptians.” (Ex. 3:22)

Concerning being “saved” by grace, it says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith...not of works.” (Eph. 2:8, 9) And then again, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James 2:24)

Concerning calling people names, the bible tells us, “Whosoever shall say Thou fool, shall be in danger of hellfire.” (Matt. 5:22) But then Jesus said, “Ye fools are blind.” (Matt. 23:17)

Has anyone actually seen God? John 1:18 says, “No man hath seen God at anytime.” But Gen. 32:30 tells us “For I have seen God face to face.”

And why does God punish Adam and Eve for eating from the tree of knowledge, then praise King Solomon for choosing knowledge as his gift? Does God want us to use our knowledge or not?

The bible can be used to enhance our knowledge and strengthen both our spirits and our minds if we realize that it represents a disparate view of history from many perspectives. It makes for great philosophical debates.

But it can also be used to “prove” almost anything. When one religious zealot takes a single translation and dogmatizes it as absolute truth, he has done a grave disservice to his flock.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Snag Should Not Delay Stadium

Back in late April, during the waning hours of the Indiana General Assembly, state legislators pulled a couple of rabbits out of the hat by rescuing some bills that, if not yet dead, were moribund.

The bill that wouldn’t go away, of course, was the daylight saving time bill, which has finally become law with the governor’s signature last month. The other major piece of legislation saved from oblivion at the last minute was the funding bill for a new Indianapolis Colts stadium and convention center.

With passage of the funding legislation and creation of a new state board charged with overseeing its construction, the stadium project seemed to be off to a smooth start, with construction projected to begin by August.

But late last week Indianapolis mayor Bart Peterson and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels were at odds over who was going to pay the Colts $48 million to terminate their present lease agreement. During its negotiations with the Colts last year, city officials had agreed to buy out the lease.

But Peterson said he believed the money was part of the funding legislation passed by the General Assembly. Daniels says it isn’t so and that the mayor should know better if he has read the law.

With a negations deadline looming, Gov. Daniels says the project will get underway on schedule. But, he said, the lease buy-out is up to the city. He did, however, say the new state board can perhaps find ways to cut corners and help the city out.

Peterson, meanwhile, said that there absolutely will not be any more tax money thrown at the project. He believes the amount raised in public financing is sufficient to cover both the construction costs and the lease termination fee.

The entire project is expected to cost $900 million. The stadium is scheduled for completion by the start of the Colts’ 2008 season, with the convention center expansion due for completion by 2010.

Meanwhile, the Colts say they expect a check for $48 million as agreed and they don’t really care who signs it. But as part of the agreement reached with the city, the Colts must ante up $100 million for the project. So, am I missing something here?

If the Colts owe $100 million as their contribution to the stadium and the city owes $48 million to the Colts to terminate their current lease, then a little subtraction will yield a net total of $52 million owed by the Colts.

However the three parties work it out, it doesn’t seem like an insurmountable problem, which is probably why the governor has stressed the project will not be delayed because of it.

And that’s good news, because Central Indiana will benefit greatly from the expansion project. Indianapolis and all the surrounding suburban counties reap major financial benefits from convention business that draws people into the area from all over the country.

Indianapolis is already a hugely popular convention destination. But the biggest and most lucrative convention business must go elsewhere because the current convention center just isn’t big enough.

The seven suburban counties are being asked to levy a one percent food and beverage tax to help fund the project. The counties get to keep half the revenue generated from such a tax.

It’s a win-win situation. The counties get added revenue, and the stadium project gets needed funding from the counties. And it’s not unreasonable to ask the counties to levy the small tax increase because most season ticket-holders come from outside Marion County.

Twenty-five years ago, Indianapolis’ nickname was Naptown. Some called it “Indianoplace.” Its reputation was of a sleepy little Midwestern city that rolled up its sidewalks after five o’clock. It’s only claim to fame was the Indy 500.

Today, Indianapolis is a growing, energetic, convention destination with a vibrant nightlife. It has enough entertainment venues to satisfy most tastes, from Broadway plays to jazz clubs to major league sporting events.

But in order to maintain and expand its convention traffic in the future, it needs a much bigger and more up-to-date convention center. It also needs to keep its major league football franchise. That’s why the petty bickering over who pays for the lease buy-out needs to end.

Suburban counties get some of the convention and sports business generated by the city. That’s why they need to do their part to make sure the new facilities get built.

The governor will be in Johnson County this Thursday to discuss the stadium project. Interested parties are encouraged to attend.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Is Energy Crisis Looming?

Remember when the price of gas was less than a dollar a gallon? It really hasn’t been that long ago.

Since the mid-1980s, gasoline prices have peaked and then retreated several times. Not long after the first Gulf War, when gas prices had been high and everyone thought that cheap gas prices were a thing of the past, they suddenly dropped to as low as 79 cents a gallon.

Actually, even now, gasoline prices are not much higher than they’ve been for much of the twentieth century, adjusted for inflation that is. They just seem higher now because they were unusually low during much of the 1990s.

I’m no oil analyst, but I can safely bet that gas prices will never be as low as a dollar per gallon again. In fact, we’re probably lucky they aren’t any higher than they are.

According to many oil industry observers, including some geologists who should know about oil reserves, the world’s oil production will peak sometime between now and 2010. Depending on who you ask, it could peak later this year, next year, or anytime up to about 2009.

By “peak,” I mean that oil production in the world will start falling, something it has never done before. But the demand for petroleum will continue to grow, at least for awhile.

So what does that mean?

Basically, it means very high gasoline prices, at least five dollars per gallon, and the increasing likelihood of energy shortages. Brownouts and blackouts will become more common.

The predicted energy shortages shouldn’t come as any surprise. Dr. Richard C. Duncan, a scientist and statistician, postulated in 1989 that world oil production would peak during the first decade of the 21st century. It was based on a statistical analysis of oil usage since 1901. He called it the Olduvai Theory, after the famous Olduvai Gorge, because humans seem to be metaphorically running off the edge of an energy cliff.

The consensus of the oil industry itself is that economic factors will work to balance supply and demand at new levels, resulting in higher prices but more production. But geologist point out that Mother Nature will not put more oil into the ground just because somebody throws money at it. Once whatever is there is pumped out, that’s it.

New sources of energy are needed. And there are several alternatives on the drawing boards, including hydrogen fuel cells, microwave energy from orbiting satellites, and coal liquefaction. There is also a need for increased conservation.

But conservation alone will not be enough. And the new sources of energy are not here yet. It will take more than a decade for new energy sources to make much of a difference. It seems we’re too late.

Duncan predicts that by 2030 the world will have entered a new stone age. Most of the pessimistic views are not quite that pessimistic. But whoever is correct, it looks as though we’re in for a bumpy ride.

So pack up the motor home and head out for the wide open spaces this summer while gas prices are relatively low. By next year, or the year after, we may be longing for the good old days when gas prices were a mere two bucks a gallon.