A new energy paradigm
Column by Sam Rasoul
Two weeks ago, I addressed the reasons behind the astronomical prices for gasoline. These serious increases hurt not only individuals and families, but also weaken our already vulnerable economy. The price of oil has decreased somewhat since then, but the cost of both gasoline and fuel oil threatens to destroy local, state and national budgets.
Because of the high prices, Americans drove less, therefore cutting back on demand and perhaps contributing to the slight and temporary decrease in cost, but because many of us live far from our jobs and our markets, we are limited on the amount of reduction. Additionally, we depend heavily on trucks for transporting goods – again, we can cut back on the miles only so far.
Above all else, we have to look beyond the short term and ensure our energy needs do not place us in jeopardy in the future. We have to prepare for tomorrow today. As I said in an article I wrote in late February, “Energy Solution: Made in the USA,” we require a national mobilization to address this great nation’s energy needs. The movement, based on President Kennedy’s Apollo Project, has begun already.
First, we must quit subsidizing the oil industry, which is not a sustainable solution, and move those funds to sustainable alternatives. We must provide both subsidies and tax breaks for research and development of renewable energies and also provide incentives for manufacturers and consumers.
To reduce consumption of oil, Congress must raise the fuel economy standards, currently around 24 mpg, to a minimum of 40 mpg by 2015 with incremental improvements each year. Congress should show leadership by reallocating the $18 billion that now goes to the oil industry as a subsidy to research and development and production credits geared toward raising the fuel economy standards.
Some of that $18 billion must go into the research and infrastructure we will need to make plug-in hybrids a reality. The idea of electricity to power transportation is not science fiction. In fact, early transportation in the late 1800s, primarily streetcars, depended solely on electricity; transportation was electricity’s biggest customer and many early car dealers sold only electric cars. We can make plug-in hybrids capable of traveling long distances available in a few years. While we are moving to an oil-free transportation system, we must invest in wind and solar technologies to generate the electricity we will need and make those energies economically viable.
Many towns across the country have lost their public transportation or have an insufficient system, additionally our railroad system still has not been brought into the 21st century. We should ensure that metropolitan areas have adequate mass transportation. We must rebuild freight and passenger rail systems in the United States and expand subway systems, allowing our economy to expand for decades to come.
There is no silver bullet answer to our energy crisis; as a matter of national security, we must keep all alternatives in the picture and weigh each of them environmentally and economically. There are two main ingredients, however, in the movement to energy independence and oil-free transportation: an open mind and political will.
Sam Rasoul is the Sixth District Democratic Party congressional nominee.