The current administration has recently made clear its plan to deal with the global warming issue by coupling it with our current energy crisis. Mr. Bush claims that the Kyoto Protocol would hurt the U.S. economically by weakening our energy industry. The White House has made it clear that it is unwilling to make any cutbacks in energy output while we are experiencing shortages and hence will not accept the terms of the Protocol.
By doing so, Bush is providing a stopgap measure to the current energy woes at the expense of the future of the industry.
In response to the energy shortages in California and anticipated shortages throughout the nation this summer, the economic plan outlined by Vice President Cheney calls for increased domestic exploitation of carbon based fuels in an effort to keep the energy industries ahead of demand. What this plan would accomplish is not only detrimental to the environment but also to our economic future.
Though expert opinions differ on how long stocks will last, it is obvious that there are only so many natural resources that the earth can provide. Petroleum products in particular are limited and even if new sources are discovered, eventually we will run out. By remaining reliant on these products, we are setting ourselves up for a fall when resources do dry up.
Think of the gas guzzling cars produced in the U.S. before the oil crisis of the 70’s. They were unnecessarily inefficient because gasoline was plentiful up to the time of the crisis. When the crisis occurred, we were hit hard economically as motorists struggled to afford to fuel their vehicles.
As a result of that crisis, the average car we produce today has better gas mileage, lower emissions and, thanks to improvements in technology, able to outperform its oversized predecessors. Adopting the standards of the Kyoto Protocol now will put us on a path to insure that the U.S. will be using alternate sources of energy when there no longer exist enough petroleum products to sustain our industries. By relying on carbon based sources, we fall into danger of losing ground technologically and economically to those nations who accept the protocol.
Adopting new standards now would improve the economy in the long run by putting the American industries in the lead of what will eventually become a necessity for all nations. If we reduce the amount of oil, coal and gas burning plants and factories now, we will force industries to adopt alternate sources of energy which will not only be less damaging to the environment, but will also lead to more efficient and less costly technologies.
Instead, the Bush administration calls for new drilling sites around the nation and less funding for research and development in the alternate energy fields. It is obvious from his experience as a petroleum company executive that Cheney understands the supply side of the current energy dilemma but is approaching it with methods that are unacceptable to the rest of the world. The plan he outlines is fine from the industry point of view but fails as a national policy.
In response to conservationists’ cries that the policy would do more harm than good, Cheney has stated that “Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.” If this new energy plan is not based on virtue, then what is it based on? It may be said that pure capitalism overrides personal virtue, but then again a pure capitalist wouldn’t be shortsighted enough to pump such a significant amount of funds into building new power plants that use a resource as limited and controversial as coal. If we go ahead and build the hundreds of new coal burning plants that Cheney proposes, we will find ourselves replacing them in the near future when coal is no longer plentiful or cost effective.
Refusing the terms of the Kyoto protocol is a shortsighted and brash move. We will lose the opportunity to compel change in exchange for maintaining what is already an uncertain status quo. With energy crises occurring already in California and others likely to occur this summer across the nation, it is a good time to make a move towards revamping our energy infrastructure and reconsidering our consumption.
Increased energy production isn’t the answer; more efficient and less costly technology is. The United States must make an effort to adapt to a changing world in order to preserve our natural resources and our economic vitality.
Refuse the international standards set at Kyoto and we can save the current energy crisis at the cost of our natural resources and environment by increasing the supply of carbon burning fuel output.
Accept the protocol and we can prevent take steps now to avert the current danger and avoid future crises as well.