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When President Barack Obama urged us to seek a spirit of healing rather than language of injury in our public discourse, he was not specifically speaking of energy policy. But his message inspired me to think, why donít we energy warriors give consensus building a go anyway? Because, despite sometimes heated differences, we share the same goal: an American energy future free of dictates from overseas that supports a growing economy and creates good paying jobs here at home.
To that end, I offer three ideas that might be useful in finding some common ground regarding our otherwise contentious energy challenges. Coming from the perspective of a longtime advocate for clean energy, and one who has spoken out on the cost of burning fossil fuels, these ideas might seem unorthodox, but perhaps thatís what we need right now.
Oil Is Beautiful: It may come as a shock to my friends that I, a vocal champion of all things solar and wind, would say this, but there is no denying the truth ó oil is a wonderfully unique substance. It is incredibly energy intensive and has a very high energy-profit ratio, so it makes a great transportation fuel. It has been fairly easy to find, recover and transport, at least until now.
And oil forms the foundation of the entire chemical food chain that supports our modern industrial society. There is hardly a product made today, from clothing to cars to electronics, that does not use in significant ways the millions of miraculous materials that are synthesized from oil.
The Oil Supply Is Limited and We Have to Learn to Sustain It: We waste oil in prodigious amounts, burning it in wildly inefficient vehicles and ignoring its future value as a feedstock for millions of products from pharmaceuticals to advanced electronics. If you love oil, why not help figure out a way not to waste its black beauty? Why donít those who support oil and those who have been warning of the dangers of burning it with abandon get together and figure out ways not to waste it?
The Chinese Are On to Us When It Comes to Oil: We are not the only ones who have figured out that oil is an amazing liquid; the Chinese have joined the rest of the developing world in an obsession with the stuff. The most dangerous place in China today is in front of the door of a new car dealership showroom. The number of cars in Beijing has doubled in three years as throngs of newly minted middle-class Chinese rush into the white-line fever of the car culture and become addicted to the needle of oil in the process.