Energy crisis needs more than hot air from Congress

Aug. 1, 2008
Texas Oilman T Boone Pickens paints a graphic picture of why the United States must adopt a strategic goal to achieve energy independence as soon as possible.

Texas Oilman T Boone Pickens paints a graphic picture of why the United States must adopt a strategic goal to achieve energy independence as soon as possible. Our economy and our strategic security are very much at stake.

During recent testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Pickens said: “We are more fragile today, from a national security standpoint, than we have been since World War II. This danger stems directly from our overwhelming dependence on foreign oil, which has risen from 24% in 1970 to 70% today. What worries me, and what should worry…the American people, is that much of this dependence is on oil that comes from countries that are not our friends. By spending $700 billion a year importing oil — more than four times the cost of the Iraqi War — we are strangling our economy and putting ourselves and our nation in greater harm's way.

“This is more than a disturbing trend line,” Pickens added. “It is a recipe for national disaster. This is a crisis that cannot be left to the next generation to solve; and shame on all of us if we don't grab this bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground. And we must do it now. Our country is in a deep hole, and it's time to stop digging.”

How much of a hole have we dug? At the rate oil prices are going, Pickens estimated that the United States would be paying $10 trillion for its annual oil imports within the next decade. It would bankrupt the US economy.

Higher oil prices already are having a profound impact across much of the US economy. Trucking certainly is being hurt, and owner-operators have been especially hard hit. The trucking industry is experiencing the highest prolonged fuel prices in history.

Average diesel prices across the United States reached a high of nearly $4.80 a gallon in July. Crude oil now accounts for 65% of the cost of a gallon of diesel. It can cost more than $2,000 to fuel a tractor right now. Even with the fuel surcharges, that's more than some owner-operators (and even some fleets) can handle right now.

Speaking at a recent press conference, Barbara Windsor, president and chief executive officer of Hahn Transportation, said the United States needs a comprehensive energy plan that decreases demand for fossil fuels, increases domestic energy production, and ensures transparency in the petroleum markets.

“This is a big problem that requires a big solution,” she said. “Trucking delivers America. Trucks transport virtually 100% of groceries, medicine, clothing, appliances, and even the fuel that's pumped at the local gas station. Rising fuel prices not only hurt the trucking industry, but the entire American economy.”

Pickens offered a broader outline for a strategic energy plan. The objective must be to slash our dependence on foreign oil by at least 30% over the next 10 years. We need to rely on 100% American resources. Any plan must use existing, proven, and workable alternatives to foreign oil. The federal government must clear the regulatory path for implementation of the energy plan, and private enterprise must quickly execute the plan.

All of these proposals make sense. We have tremendous energy resources in this country. That includes approximately 38 billion barrels of undeveloped oil resources that are currently off limits to development. Current US law also prohibits the development of approximately 180 trillion cubic feet of natural gas resources.

So, what is the federal government doing to address the US energy crisis? Our elected officials are blowing a lot of hot air, but they are not actually doing much of anything. In fact, Congress is on vacation for the whole month of August.

President George W Bush has a mixed record on the energy issue. On the one hand, he's done more in his two terms to promote renewable energy sources than any other US president. On the other hand, he's shown almost no leadership when it comes to dealing with the soaring fuel prices. One of the few things he's done is rescind the executive moratorium of offshore drilling and call on Congress to lift its offshore drilling ban.

Congress has an even worse record, and the gutter-level 18% approval rating for the federal legislative branch is a historic low — well below President Bush's 32% rating. This is probably the most ineffective, do-nothing Congress we've ever seen.

Even worse, the Democrats who control the House of Representatives and the Senate actually are largely responsible for the high gasoline and diesel prices. Democrats enacted most of the federal regulations banning or restricting access to 92% of all federal lands and imposed such strict environmental regulations on refinery development that no new facilities have been built in the past 30 years. Argonne National Laboratory produced a report in 2004 that identified 40 specific federal policy areas that halt, limit, delay, or restrict natural gas projects.

The Democrats in Congress seem to have forgotten all of that. Instead, they are trying to blame the high energy prices on everybody but themselves and their failed eco-Marxist no-drill, no-refine, no-coal, no-nuclear-plant policies.

They continue to cling to their failed policies. They say drilling for new oil in the United States won't fix the current energy crisis because it will take many years to bring the new production on line. They were saying the same thing during the Clinton Administration back in the 1990s. If they had taken action then, we wouldn't be in today's crisis.

Like it or not, oil is going to remain a major component in the US energy portfolio for many years to come. To quote the American Solutions for Winning the Future campaign, we need to Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less. After all, our economy and our strategic security are at stake.

About the Author

Charles Wilson

Charles E. Wilson has spent 20 years covering the tank truck, tank container, and storage terminal industries throughout North, South, and Central America. He has been editor of Bulk Transporter since 1989. Prior to that, Wilson was managing editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter and associate editor of Trailer/Body Builders. Before joining the three publications in Houston TX, he wrote for various food industry trade publications in other parts of the country. Wilson has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and served three years in the U.S. Army.