Thursday, March 17, 2005

These boots are made for...polka

(Yesterday, I wrote about the tunes that get stuck in our heads. Well, this morning, for reasons unknown, it was Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walking". I tried to think of a polka version in order to lift my pace, but it didn't work. Nancy kept coming back, and she's been in my head all morning. Oh, the horror!)

(Today's theme: walking, cycling and conservation. I ride a bicycle to work, and I often walk to the grocery store. It's a pleasant 10 minute walk, though when my kids walked a similar distance to school, some parents were horrified that we made them walk so far.)

There's a paper in the shop that juxtaposes two headlines from our local newspaper. "War costs top $81.4 billion bill OK'd by House" and "Oil price at all-time high". Some of my co-workers claim President Bush is responsible. I don't take that tack. Oil prices are pushing ever higher because we're competing with the China and India. As their economizes industrialize and their
consumers move up the economic ladder, both countries will need more oil. We can continue this competition and see ever-increasing prices, or we can take another approach, and in my mind a better approach, by turning our technology toward using less petroleum. But we need the equivalent of the Manhattan Project, and the national will, to do so.

Now, in an administration hip-deep in former oil executives, the idea of using less petroleum is anathema. Their lives have been spent drilling more and more holes in the ground. We can continue along this path, and if today's news about drilling in ANWR is any indication, we will. There's not enough oil to make a real difference in our energy needs, but there's enough to further enrich some already rich people.

Vice President Cheney dismissively suggested that conservation is a personal choice. It should be government policy, but again, with the oil guys in charge that's unlikely. We can each make the choice to use less fuel by walking or cycling. We can plan our trips and use the car less. My friend Sandra calls this being "car-lite". Eventually, our economy will turn away from extensive use of petroleum, not because it will run out, but because it will be increasingly expensive to extract.

But that's off in the future. How far in the future depends on who you listen to. In the near term, expect that oil prices will continue to increase. India and China will not simply go away.

But there's another, more sinister idea that crossed my mind. India and China are much closer to the oil-rich Middle East than we are. Could it be that the discredited pretext for a war with Iraq, the vanished-into-thin-air weapons of mass destruction, was only a subterfuge so that we could pre-position our troops on top of those oil fields? Could Iraq be a garrison state for next 20 years, securing it's oil supply for the US market? We already use our military to prop up the House of Saud. In effect, our military is used to subsidize oil prices for American consumers and businesses. Our taxes and the lives of our children make cheap gas possible. It that a moral choice?

I don't think so.


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