Saturday, June 09, 2007

Energy -- up close and personal

By Carol Gee

Whether Democrat or Republican, most Americans believe that global warming is a fact of life and that the U.S. needs more energy independence. An article in the Democratic Strategist, headlined "Uptick in support for energy independence gives Dems wedge," discussed this opportunity for Democrats to take the lead with this issue. To quote from the opening paragraph:

Democrats now have an extraordinary opportunity to win the support of a large and rapidly-growing majority of Americans concerned about energy independence and global warming. Large majorities now favor strong action to address these crises, according to a strategy memo written by Al Quinlan, Stan Greenberg, and the Center for American Progress's John Podesta.

Travel reinforces need for energy independence -- I am in that majority of people who see the need for policy change. And my recent travel experiences greatly reinforced the positive/negative energy and environmental realities for me.

  • Time after time I pulled out a $10 bill to buy gas for an almost empty tank. The result was not nearly enough fuel to raise the gauge to anywhere near "Full." More Ethanol and diesel pumps now made real the possibility of me filling my tank with the wrong kind of propellant.

  • Along much of the route from our home in Texas to my hometown in Wyoming, drilling rigs dotted the landscape. A risky race to ventilate the globe is taking place here in the fossil fuel rich West.

  • Road building in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming means a constant flow of closed lanes, miles of orange traffic cones, and slower progress from here to there.

  • Commercial trucks crowd already over-taxed highways, as free trade commerce flows from city to city and state to state.

  • Large crews of road construction workers are peopled by many Latino laborers and heavy equipment operators.

  • Drilling is happening in both rural and clearly crowded urban areas of Texas and Colorado as well as the pristine and vulnerable prairie and high desert areas of Wyoming. Both of these geographical conditions are negatively impacted by oil and gas drilling. Meanwhile Yellowstone Park's vast reserves of geothermal energy tantalize visionary planners.

  • Wind farming is much more evident in both Texas and Wyoming, as the distinctive profiles of large groups of big turbines dot faraway horizons.

  • Our years-old Chevrolet Prism averaged 40 miles to the gallon at various points of our trip. So we know that such energy efficiency is possible. Chevrolet no longer builds this model, ironically.
To summarize the needs for policy change -- We are already behind the European Union in recognition of global warming and what to do about dependence on fossil fuels. We need to borrow some of their more successful strategies. U.S. energy corporations should no longer run the Republican Bush administration's policy shops. Conservation and environmental groups in Western states deserve our increased support. Each of us needs to take the measure of our individual energy footprints and make the necessary moves to make them smaller. Democrats can confidently propose new energy policies that will garner widespread public support. And we do not have to wait for the presidential elections do do so.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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