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Should we Fight for Oil, or for Our Children?
March 20, 2002
By punpirate

Senate amendments to first increase CAFE mileage requirements and second to increase national commitment to renewable energy, met with resounding failure this week.

The auto industry, simultaneously whining that increased fleet mileage requirements couldn't be met at a rate of one mile per gallon increase per year, then unleashed a massive public relations campaign asserting that SUV's, regardless of their mileage, deserved greater consideration because of their safety. Safety? Time for a review, folks.

Let's just get the issues out front, first, please. SUVs aren't safer, especially when they're driven faster than other cars or trucks on the road. Ask any automotive engineer about a simple fact: if the roll center of a vehicle is unchanged, what happens when the center of gravity is raised? Ask `em. Then ask `em why they are promoting, such as has GM done in the latest issue of "Motor Trend," SUVs for the 2003 model year which have twin-turbocharger engines of 400 hp or more, capable of propelling 5000-lb behemoths to acceleration rates of 5.35 seconds from 0-60 mph. Such acceleration rates, just a few years ago, were the province of up-scale, high-priced and much smaller sports cars.

There was no mention by the manufacturers that SUVs, in their current form, are the most profitable vehicles ever devised by the automotive industry, and that they have been aggressively marketed and promoted by the manufacturers. And, there was no whining when pickups, the cheapest and nearly the most profitable of all vehicles to produce, were exempted from mileage requirements. Think big oil and the auto manufacturers had something to do with that vote in the Senate? You wouldn't be far wrong if you felt that such was so.

Next, ask your Senator why she or he caved in on more stringent requirements for renewable energy. Those voting against the legislation will inevitably say that it was a goal which was impossible to meet.

Well to ask if they really know the truth, or if they believed the energy lobbyists (the energy lobby has no interest in renewables, since once the machinery is in place, there are no ongoing receipts for fuel, and no fuel cost adjustments to pass on to consumers).

Like the fleet mileage requirements, the mandates of this legislation were very modest--roughly one percentage point increase in energy produced by renewables per year--hardly unachievable. The real rub? No fuel. No ongoing profits to made for fuel by the large multinational energy corporations.

Such would be bad news for George W. Bush's friends and campaign supporters. Dubya's friends don't have big investments and binding patents in the renewable field, and, let's face it, why would they want to invest in a field that would put them out of business in a few years?

Again, the truth is, this and the current war on terrorism are about oil, the profits from oil, and the huge subsidies a conservative Congress wishes to give oil companies. ANWR is of no interest to the oil companies, because the cost of extraction is so high. But, the subsidies provided by Congress in the energy bill are much more profitable. ANWR is the loud barking Rottweiler promoted by the administration, while the subsidies to oil conglomerates are the little terrier scuttling under the body of the Rott toward the food dish.

So, what about that brie, chablis and bean sprouts view of renewable energy which has been lost in the current energy bill? The administration and the traditional energy industry wants this to be an issue defined by them alone, rather than by the people, especially those from California, which has lately suffered from the helter-skelter rush toward deregulation. The view the administration and its friends wish to promote is that renewable energy is pie-in-the-sky, fanciful technology which is expensive, will cost the general populace their quality of life, and will, as David Corn suggests, force the country's people to eat their peas and wear their sweaters, as President Jimmy Carter hoped, in the days of marked increases in fuel costs due to OPEC's assertion of power over us in the late `70s.

President Carter wasn't wrong about sweaters (wool's comfortable). And, he wasn't wrong about oil and renewable energy. The investment and tax credits he helped institute over twenty years ago helped the American solar and energy industries keep their slim toehold on energy production by changing the collective mind of the people about the efficacy and efficiency of renewable energy.

Today, thinking hard about our relationship with the rest of the world, we could, if we wished, think that the latest Mr. Bush is pushing for a foreign policy centered around oil. People are getting killed, in New York, in Afghanistan, at the Pentagon building, in tiny cells around the world where death by torture and beating are ignored by the courts, all because of oil, and the multinational corporations making money on oil.

The legislation killed by your Senate this past week was a first step toward freedom from dependency upon oil, toward freedom from war without end to defend the rights of corporate interests depending upon oil. It was a first step toward a world in which Saudi Arabia would have to be responsible to its own people, instead of being responsible to Exxon, or whatever affiliation of oil conglomerates the Federal Trade Commission approves of this week.

This past week, the Saudi religious police prevented young girls from escaping their burning school because they were not properly dressed, according to the religious police version of the Koran's teachings. Most recent reports say that fifteen young women died because of this arbitrary interpretation of the Koran, which, ostensibly, was supported by the Saudi Royal Family, a corrupt and untrustworthy bunch who support such religious repression in order to maintain their desperate grasp on the profits from oil.

Because the Bush administration does business with the Saudis, likes the Saudis, because Dubya's poppy does bidness with the Saudis, because the Bush administration's campaign supporters are in the oil bidness, oil will define America's foreign policy, oil will determine our friends, even if those friends are so corrupt that they will kill their own daughters to make themselves seem religious in the eyes of their most extreme citizens, in order to maintain their control of oil wealth.

Oil will determine our friends, our enemies, who we count as allies and those against whom we will wage war. And, we will not pursue the availability of oil for the good of the world, but, rather, oil for the profit of our own multinationals.

If it were just a matter of oil as energy, we would quickly, and with great interest, adopt the energy and renewables policies of smaller, more sensible countries such as Holland and Denmark, countries which cannot afford to wage war on the rest of the world, countries which understand, unlike the U.S., that energy conservation is the means to their survival.

To those families in Saudi Arabia, whose daughters have died for a reason they and very few in the world understand, I extend my empathy, and my sympathy. Here in America, I, too, have lost a daughter, for reasons I still do not understand. At least my daughter did not die to make a corrupt oil-rich sheik seem pious, and did not die to provide another excuse for an American President to kill yet more children, for oil.

Punpirate is the nom de plume of a writer living in New Mexico, in perilous times for democracy.

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