by David Phinney
Friday July 12th 2024



Energy Independence in 10 Years

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Imagine President Bush announcing a national plan to achieve US energy independence by 2011 the day after the 9-11 attack in 2001. We may have already been half way there in reaching the goal.
Bush could have muscled all of his political capital and the collective national will to support the development of energy efficient products and alternative fuels. Much of the money that has been spent in Iraq — $350 billion and counting — could have been spent on developing better automobiles, light bulbs, refrigerators, computers, and a sweeping catalog of other consumer products that would supply a whole new generation of high-tech exports for the United States economy.
Need the oil companies and other corporate interests to buy into the program? Well, corporations have done very well financially with the war on terror and the invasion of Iraq. Presumably, they would buy into a program at home — especially if you paid them anything close to the money they are billing in Iraq.
Cynical? Perhaps. But a program for national energy independence also would create more jobs in the US as well. That in turn, would nurture further broad-based support for a national energy program.
Think of it as being similar to the US space program after the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik in 1957, the world’s first artificial satellite. It was the size of a basketball, weighed 183 pounds, and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path.
The modest little orb spurred Congress to fast-track the National Aeronautics and Space Act and create NASA on October 1, 1958. So began the multi-billion-dollar, decade-long U.S.-U.S.S.R space race.
The Communist achievement was a competitive humiliation that President John F. Kennedy and his administration would not tolerate. Kennedy’s new 1961 commitment to landing “a man on the moon,” not only gave us the powdered orange drink, Tang, and the laptop computer, but it also reinvigorated public education and sparked other lasting political, military, technological, and scientific developments.*
An energy independence program would do the same things. According to one group, the Apollo Alliance, a 10-year national investment of $313 billion would spark $1.43 trillion in economic activity, $953.87 billion in personal income and over 3.3 million new good-paying jobs.
Landing a man on the moon in may have been more possible than making the United States energy independent in 10 years, but even if the United States were 50 percent successful, the progress would have enormous impact. Oil producing nations would come begging for business while cutting prices on their barrels.
*Sputnik also inspired San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen to coin the term “beatnik” in an article about the Beat Generation on April 2, 1958.


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