Friday, February 23, 2007

How to Avoid Future Iraq Wars

Oil, or more precisely the oil we depend on from our enemies and our “quasi” friends among the world’s oil producing nations, is the main reason our options in Iraq, the Middle East, and the world at large are limited today.

Today in Iraq, we are as the phrase goes, “stuck between a rock and a hard place.” If we abandon our efforts in Iraq now it will most likely lead to an all out civil war resulting in newly established safe havens for Al Qaeda and others who are committed to harming us. Upon our departure from Iraq there would likely be major influence by Iran, if not total Iranian control of at least portions of Iraq through a puppet government. This is the same Iran that daily flaunts the fact that they are developing their own nuclear program and there is nothing we Americans can do about it. The irony is that no matter how much we want to justify our own sense of self worth as the “Mighty Americans”, they are right. We do not have the will nor the financial stamina to fight on yet another front, and the other so called “World Powers” are making too much money from Iran to realistically do anything to stop them.

Our only other option is to stay in Iraq, which has proved to be a total quagmire that is costing the lives of our fellow citizens and draining our already depleted national treasury at a whirlwind pace. This option may slow the decay of Iraqi society into sectarian partition with Iranian and Al Qaeda strongholds in the country, but will likely not prevent this unthinkable end. If we are lucky, maybe the country will stabilize with just a limited sanctuary to our enemies before we are so financially depleted that we cannot effectively prosecute any future military operation abroad to defend ourselves or our national interests, namely oil production.

If upon our ultimate departure from Iraq, leadership or significant influence over the affairs of the country falls into the hands of our enemies, they will control an ever increasing share of the oil resources we so desperately need to continue our way of life.

At this point I must state that this article is not intended to offer an immediate solution to the wars in which we are now engaged, but rather to define the critical issue that must be resolved to avoid such messy situations in the future.

So, what is the root cause of all our problems in the Middle East? It is simply our dependence on oil from our enemies.

Imagine a scenario where we could choose not to buy another drop of oil from Iran, Venezuela, Iraq, and for that matter even from those countries I will term as quasi friends at best, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Russia, and all the fiefdoms of the oil rich Middle East. If we could stop buying oil from these countries the effect would be quite simply astounding. Overnight the massive amount of money that they are taking in from our purchase of their oil would stop. Our enemies would no longer have the resources to adequately fund terrorists who are intent on our destruction. They would no longer have the resources to develop nuclear weapons programs that will likely one day be used to destroy American cities. In short, they would become countries that could no longer fund ventures solely aimed at the destruction of America, but to the contrary would more likely be asking for our help with technological improvements for the betterment of their people out of concern for maintaining their regimes.

In short, if we could stop buying their oil, the countries that depend on our money from the sale of their oil would be forced to evolve from states that are getting rich based solely on a resource that happens to be in the ground under their homes, into nations that must develop trade with others based on the skills of their people and their willingness to be good and honest trading partners to the rest of the world. Instead of having too much money and too much time on their hands to think of ways to destroy the “evil capitalist infidels” of the world, to put bread on their tables they would have to work hard to develop goods and services that the rest of the world can use. Their collective standard of living would be based on hard work and self reliance rather than a subsidy from others in exchange for oil that just happens to be on their land.

The Arab and Persian people have contributed much to the world over their rich histories. These unique societies are fully capable of such contributions to the world without dependence on sale of their natural resources. Once intelligent minds are needed to restore greatness based on works rather than depending merely on oil reserves to fund their national economies, the greatness of these societies can once again be appreciated by all nations.

If we no longer had to purchase oil from our enemies and quasi friends, we could then invest the 130 billion dollars per year that we now use to buy foreign oil on producing the energy we need here in America. We would create a new energy industry with higher paying jobs here in America. We would have a peace dividend through saving the 90 billion plus dollars per year we are currently spending to fight wars such as in Iraq. By shifting our energy expenditures to here at home, the investment in our national economy would be exponentially more beneficial over time and the world would be a much safer place for us all.

Unfortunately, every time a discussion of becoming energy independent arises, a couple of things happen to derail the idea. The first thing that happens is we say that it will take a very long time and lots of money to accomplish. Since the discussion begins because of an immediate crisis we are facing at the time, the idea eventually loses momentum and dies because it seems so daunting compared with the immediate need. So instead of taking the long term view and imagining how great America would be 30 years in the future if we set our minds, resources, and national goals to attaining energy independence, we fade into a collective feeling of hopelessness and then ignore the issue altogether until the next crisis.

The second thing that occurs each time the discussion of energy independence reaches a level of serious consideration, OPEC, the unfriendly controller of our oil supply and price, intervenes to increase world supply and lower prices at the pump for a short term to help squelch such discussion. We should wake up to the fact that our enemies are not as ignorant or intellectually inferior as we would like to believe. Every time the price at the pump goes down, we Americans slide back into pacification just like a junky getting his drug fix for the day without any regard to our increasing dependence on countries that hate us.

In the mid 1970s, America experienced an oil crisis as a direct result of oil market manipulation by self proclaimed enemies of the United States. That malicious act led to high prices and fuel supply shortages across the country. At that time there was serious discussion of how America could become energy independent so that we would never be subjected to such control by others in the future. Like always, the naysayers of our society were out front in talking about how such a lofty goal would take 30 years to achieve and cost billions of dollars to accomplish. Such talk, accompanied by the fact that prices at the pump soon decreased and fuel supply increased, resulted in our collective decision to do nothing but create token fuel mileage increases in some of our automobiles.

Imagine how different our world situation would be today if we had decided at that time to put our national focus and American ingenuity fully into becoming energy independent. Any reasonable person would have to conclude that had we become energy independent by now, it would be improbable for us to be stuck in Iraq losing American lives and resources with no good options for ending the crisis. There would likely not be such hatred toward Americans and Al Qaeda would probably not even exist. If the Al Qaeda rhetoric were true (which is highly suspect) that the only reason they want to destroy us is that we are occupying “holy” ground by our presence in Saudi Arabia since the first gulf war, we would most likely not even be in Saudi Arabia. For that matter, the first gulf war would probably never have taken place because oil would have been almost worthless and there would not have been the incentive for Saddam Hussein to take over oil rich Kuwait in the first place. Imagine how much safer and satisfying our lives would be today had we decided in the 1970s to become energy independent within 30 years.

So what do we do? It is very simple. We should decide today that we as a nation will work without deterrence at making our nation energy independent within 30 years from now. That effort will not necessarily help us out of our Middle Eastern quagmire today, but as we slowly decrease the amount of oil we must buy from our enemies and quasi friends over the next 30 years, our options for dealing with our enemies will greatly increase and their treatment and respect for our people will dramatically improve. After all, it is hard for a drug pusher to respect the junky as long as he has ultimate control over him. Once he ends his drug dependency, the former junky will see the pusher for what he really is and choose to interact with him, or not, on his own terms. We Americans need to set our unshakable goal of total energy independence within 30 years. That is truly the only path to maintaining American greatness and a way of life many of our fellow Americans have died to protect.

So does energy independence mean producing our own oil on American soil? In the short term to lessen our dependence on oil from our enemies and to create some meaningful immediate leverage we can use to help resolve the Iraq quagmire and the Iranian nuclear weapons situation, the answer is yes. However, the 30 year goal must go beyond oil, coal, and even conversion of crops into fuel. It must be aimed at the ultimate energy sources that are readily available, solar and wind energy. Every day, we receive from the sun alone more energy than we could ever possibly need. This is the same energy that was captured by the earth and over time converted into fossil fuels such as coal and oil that we are so dependent on today. All we have to do is improve on existing technologies to capture energy from the sun directly and convert it into the forms needed for our every day use.

Future advancements in Energy Storage Units (ESU) will allow effective storage of this energy for use anywhere at anytime. Existing fuel distribution centers, such as gas stations in the case of automobiles, could become ESU exchange stations for our new technology vehicles. These vehicles would offer higher performance characteristics with minimal negative impact to our environment. Energy collection can be diversified across the electrical grid with power generation facilities becoming energy conversion and storage centers to service all of our electrical needs. All of these systems can be a reality if our human ingenuity is focused unrelentingly to the task and our collective monetary resources are invested in such a future.

Just improving existing technologies and beginning to convert our energy infrastructure toward decentralized solar and wind production, can result in a large decrease in our oil dependency within the next few years. If we focus our resources on the goal of obtaining all our energy from solar and wind sources within the next 30 years, newer technologies for more efficient collection, distribution, and use of these clean energy sources will emerge to facilitate accomplishment of that goal. If within 30 years all of our energy comes from the sun and wind and not from fossil fuels or crop conversions, our nation will be in a superb position for trading and interacting with the world on safer and much more favorable terms. This is above and beyond the obvious benefit of virtually eliminating greenhouse gas emissions that may soon, if left unchanged, result in devastating irreversible environmental consequences to the entire world.

I am convinced that we as a nation can accomplish total energy supply from solar and wind within 30 years if our national leaders will set into motion an unwavering solar and wind policy through legislation and financial commitment of our collective national resources. Such leadership from our elected officials will spur the true genius and resources of the private sector into action. If investors know that this is not just a passing political fancy, there will be a race to market with the technologies that will make the solar and wind energy objectives a true reality.

It is naive to think that a comprehensive and uncompromising energy policy that requires total energy independence based on solar and wind resources will be wholeheartedly endorsed by some of the special interest groups with powerful influence in our country today. These groups include the oil industry, coal industry, agricultural industry (crops-to-fuel), and governmental entities that are heavily dependent on taxes generated by fuel products. However, after a tough battle to keep the status quo is lost by these special interest groups, they will be forced to invest in the future themselves or go the way of so many others in past world history as technological advances pass them by. As for replacement of revenues lost through fuel taxes is concerned, it only takes political fortitude to generate government revenues from less ambiguous sources to make up the difference.

What it boils down to is this, our nation needs to have elected officials who understand what is best for America over the long haul and have the integrity to stand up and lead us in the right direction for the good of America without regard for themselves or special interest groups. Once we have all the energy we need coming from sources given to us freely every day, the sun and the wind, we will be unfettered to deal with the world in which we live on our own terms. Once America with its human rights values and concern for our neighbors is unbeholden to the repressive regimes of this world, we can once again become the beacon of hope for the entire world through not only our words but also our actions. We are Americans, a nation of people who have proven throughout our 200 plus years of formal existence that we can accomplish anything to which we focus our collective will. As Nike Corporation has so amply coined the phrase, we must “Just Do It.”