Thursday, July 03, 2008

We Can Have More Oil and a Clean Environment

Back in the early 1970s, during the oil crisis brought on by an Arab embargo, there was a major push by the American oil companies to build a gigantic pipeline through Alaska, from the Arctic permafrost to the southern coast.

As an idealistic college student who got caught up in the environmental movement of the time, I was opposed to the pipeline. I even sent a telegram to Pres. Nixon urging him to quit backing the effort to build it.

But, alas, the pipeline was built and we starting reaping the benefits of the petroleum flowing through it. The environmentalists won a partial victory in that the design of the pipeline had to be such that it did not melt the permafrost and did not hamper caribou migration.

Fast-forward 35 years or so and we are in the midst of another energy crisis. Gasoline prices are well over four dollars a gallon and continue to creep upward. And just like in the 1970s, there are environmental groups that want to derail any effort to exploit more domestic sources of oil.

But his time around, I’m not on board with them. We learn from our accomplishments from the past, and our mistakes. We know that we can exploit our natural resources without destroying the environment we take them from.

I don’t often agree with the Bush administration on anything. But I do agree that opening up some of our shorelines to drilling for oil, as well as the national park areas of Alaska, would help alleviate the energy crisis. And according to the experts, we can obtain the new oil without destroying the environment.

Critics also point out that any new oil would be at least 10 years away. Well, that’s probably true. But does anyone think the energy crisis will be over in 10 years? No; it will be far worse. The new oil will be coming on line at a time we will need it even more than we do today.

Nuclear energy is another technology that needs to be restarted. We haven’t built a nuclear power plant in the U.S. for 30 years. The ones we do have are aging. Replacing them with modern plants would be safer. Building additional ones would decrease our reliance on foreign oil and would also be much cleaner for the atmosphere. Nuclear fuel also does not add to global warming.

We have to strike a balance between protecting our environment and protecting our lifestyle. With new technologies, we can actually have the best of both worlds. But many of today’s environmentalists are stuck in the 1970s. They equate all progress with raping the land, and it need not be so. It wasn’t even always true back then.

If we started a national drive to build 100 new nuclear power plants and replace some of the old ones within 20 years, and if we allow off-shore drilling and the exploration of the Arctic for new oil sources, we could become energy independent. And as long as we made the efforts we did back in 1975 not to destroy the environment while we’re taking the oil from it, our kids and grand-kids will enjoy cleaner air than we do.

Energy independence is within our reach. We just need to start realizing that gaining that independence doesn’t necessarily mean destroying the environment. We need to start using what we have and stop relying on foreign sources for our energy.

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