Ramblings of a Deranged Mind

 

by John Canivan

 

Humans dominate the earth in a way that no species has ever done before. The brontosaurus that lived 200 million years ago and weighed 35 tons  did less damage to our planet in 100 million years than we've done in the last 20 years.  The average American consumes his body weight in oil every week. We contaminate the ground water with lawn fertilizer, flood the atmosphere with  fossil fuel combustion emissions, poison the oceans with oil spills, disrupt the food chain with pesticides, destroy valuable property with non-biodegradable garbage and clutter real estate with tombstone markers in the hopes that some divine being will find our decayed remains and usher us into the promised land. Since 1960 the earthling population has doubled from 3 billion to 6 billion and unwanted children are still forced into the world. Scientists are searching for a more sustainable way of life and a more sustainable source of energy for our overpopulated world, but searches like this take time and the materials needed to develop alternative energy applications are found in petroleum. Hopefully, there will be some petroleum left by the time we find a good use for it.   The oil shortage of the 1970's is over and many believe this kind of energy crisis will never happen again. We have to pay a little more for our energy, but everything is OK now, Right? .... Wrong.. 

When oil prices increase the motivation to produce more oil also increase. North Sea Oil was discovered in 1973 and operations to extract that oil  began in 1975. They were in full swing by the end of the 70's. The 800 mile long Alaskan pipe line, completed in 1977, also helped to stabilize the price of oil and lessen our dependence on OPEC petroleum. Middle Eastern oil producers were encouraged to lower their prices if they wanted to stay competitive with the world oil market. Is this why  gasoline prices have remained so low for so long? What do you think? 

I'm sure that instability in an oil rich region has some effect on production costs, but I believe there are more important issues at play. The mad rush to extract oil at an ever increasing rate to feed an oil hungry world is the result of greed. Capitalism has once again used the laws of supply and demand to justify resource depletion. Capitalism is a force that  shapes countries, inspires inventors and motivates explorers. Capitalism sets us free. The United States  was founded on the principles of capitalism and competition, but sometimes capitalism gets out of hand. That's why wetlands are protected and restrictions are placed on builders. That's why monopolies are illegal. That's why paper mills and sewage plants have restrictions on dumping waste products in lakes and rivers. That's why offshore dumping is prohibited and luxury taxes are imposed on the sale of cigarettes. I believe we need a government to guide us in a mutually beneficial direction. Governing should be the purpose of government.

We bestow a sacred trust upon our chosen leaders. We trust they will insure our well being, now, and in the years to come. As individuals we live one day at a time. Our needs are centered on families and  friends and the small circle in which we live. This is our nature. This is our universe. We hire sheriffs, politicians and lawyers to police the larger circle, but sometimes we forget that we're all motivated by the same forces of  greed.  Elected officials find their promises difficult to keep. A public office is a public trust. Politicians promise to renounce the greed of the business world when taking office. Favoring one corporation while excluding another is a violation of that trust. Accountability is needed in government. Some leaders endorse the trickle down theory. They would have you believe if large corporations receive special consideration then the majority will benefit. Oil companies are encouraged to produce more oil when they should be discouraged. Why are we caught up in this mad race to consume the last precious drops of a non renewable resource? How can people in a capitalist society be motivated to consume less oil? That's right! $MONEY$ Only a price increase can slow down the rate of production. Only a price increase can slow down the rate of consumption. This was demonstrated by the oil embargo of the 70's. A movement to conserve and develop energy alternatives was initiated during the Carter administration. 

Present day funds allocated for alternative energy R&D projects are more of a concession than an endowment.  The Iraq war or the Bush Oil War II has cost the United States tax payers more than $1 trillion dollars so far and our debt is rising every day. The only one to benefit as far as I can see is Dick Chaney who received a $35 million kickback for awarding a clean-up to Halliburton. The total Solar Energy Technologies Program Budget for fiscal year 2004 was only $83.4 million. Of this only $2.9 million has been allocated for solar heating and lighting technology which is I believe to be the most promising area of renewable energy research today. The 2005 budget will probably be even less. SINCE Vice President Dick Cheney, who headed the White House energy task force, criticized environmentalists for relying too much on renewables and conservation to solve the nation's energy problems. He said: "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy"

Anyhow I apologize for getting you caught up in this hopeless banter, but you've come this far so I might as well lay out the WORLD OIL TAX plan. I'm really not counting on Bush and Chaney to make it  work.  Most politicians would call this proposal "political suicide". We've got such a mess in Iraq. Everyone hates us and most Americans have no idea what's going on. In four years the fundamentalists with Hummers will wonder why GOD has forsaken their fuel tank.  They will look to King George for answers, and George will blame it on the "axis of evil". He will ask us to elect a replacement puppet for the oil industry. The new puppet will promise to keep our tanks full for a few more years and we will believe him or her. What alternative will we have? Did we ever have a choice? Have election votes been adjusted in the past? Will superficial elections be needed in the future?

If for some strange reason our brain-dead country comes to its senses before "Oil War III" breaks out it may be possible to jump start a real democracy with real leaders who believe in the value of life and understand the importance of basic human needs. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Karl Marx, Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, John Lennon, Buckminster Fuller and Jimmy Carter had at least one thing in common. They believed in the the human spirit and the value of cooperation.

If enough people understand the need for a sustainable economy it may be possible to elect responsible government officials. Since social evolution is slow it may take a few years. Let's be optimistic. Let's say we still have the remnants of a democracy in 2012. Let's say all the major oil companies have merged into one large conglomerate and fix the price of oil at $12/gallon. The Oil/Defense industry would then be all powerful, but at least their power would come from the people. The question is this: Would a population aware of its problems be able to support a candidate in favor of a WORLD OIL TAX?

A WORLD OIL TAX  would involve taxing oil producers who would than pass the expense on to consumers. So if oil is going for $300 per barrel, a tax of $300 per barrel would bring the total cost up to $600 per barrel. This in turn should bring the price at the pump up to $24 per gallon. The days of chap oil would be over. The money collected from the WORLD OIL TAX would then be used for alternative energy R&D (hopefully a lot of solar thermal energy R&D). The funds would also be used for property tax rebates based on the solar energy used. The incentives of a high oil tax combined with property tax rebate incentives should be enough to steer people away from oil and into a solar age of energy independence. By 2020 it would be nice to have a world government that considers all the planetary resources before passing regulations and restrictions that effect everyone's well being. 

The wheels of capitalism are turning too fast. Half the world's oil reserves are already gone and the demand for oil is still increasing. Some people insist that technology will save us, but technology has limits and so does government. Depending on an impotent government to lead us into a sustainable economy makes about as much sense as relying on the power of a priest to guarantee safe passage through the pearly gates. God helps those that help themselves. The road from this dependent oil-based economy to an independent Solar Age will be difficult. Solar communities will be based on valuable people skills rather than government bribes. If you can't find a self-sustaining community you might have to start one your own. There's enough energy for everyone. It is now possible to replace all or most of our energy needs with the sun's energy. More solar energy strikes the surface of the earth in 12 hours than all the energy remaining in the world oil supply. The technology for a  solar age is here today. All we need are the social skills to build a utopian dream. Let's learn those skills of cooperation and tap into the boundless supply of energy from the Sun. 

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