Professor says oil addiction must go
By Joel Elliot
The world needs more than words from the president to fix America's "addiction" to foreign oil, according to a Thomas College economics professor.
Dr. John Joseph, in a speech on Thursday, cited a few examples of various U.S. administrations that through the years have addressed -- or paid lip service to -- America's dependence on fossil fuels. During the energy crisis following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, President Richard Nixon said that the U.S. should attack the problem with the same zeal and intensity with which it had approached the Manhattan Project. President Jimmy Carter in a 1977 speech said that decisions regarding energy policy represented the moral equivalent of war.
"Now, we have, 'We're addicted to foreign oil,'" Dr. John Joseph said, referring to President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address. "These men have made statements with the most powerful rhetoric at their hands, but the action that's been taken has been rather pathetic."
Joseph said the issue is that the nation is addicted to 'foreign oil,' but rather that it is addicted to oil of any sort, and he referred to studies that indicate an imminent peak in oil production. Production will peak in about four years as the world approaches the end of the finite supply of easily pumpable petroleum, according to a study he mentioned done by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil.
Current laws do a poor job of dulling the U.S. auto industry's appetite for fossil fuel, Joseph said.
"Every time you buy a Prius, you're enabling somebody else to buy an SUV," he said. "... We're living in a world of rhetoric. Everyone is afraid to ask any questions."
Joseph said the Bush administration took fact avoidance beyond the pale by squelching and distorting reports on global warming by NASA's top climate scientist James E. Hansen. Hansen in January had told The New York Times that the Bush administration pressured the public affairs staff to review and censor his lectures, postings and interviews.
Hansen and other experts must be allowed to operate independently in order for the public to be informed, Joseph said.
"Otherwise, we're going back to the middle ages, where religious ideology drives our policy," he said.
Joseph said lawmakers should call for government incentives to boost research into energy-efficient technologies, such as lighter materials for automobiles and non-centralized energy production infrastructures.
Researching in these areas is an investment into the future of today's children and grandchildren, Joseph said. His speech was given on the campus of Thomas College in a forum called Understanding and Preparing for the Energy Challenges of the Next Decade for Maine Businesses.