we Fight for Oil, or for Our Children?
March 20, 2002
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
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
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.