Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pipe Dreaming

I know it will further erode my already questionable claim to being an all-out wacko, liberal, pinko, knee-jerk, bleeding-heart liberal, but I used to not have a totally and completely negative attitude about oil companies. My dad worked for one of the Biggies. The Corporation put food on our table, a roof over our head, and paid for tuition and room and board for my college education (thanks to an employee scholarship). I have always tried to cut the oil companies a whole lot of slack. It hasn't always been easy. It has now become almost impossible.

Fortunately, my dad is dead and the corporation he worked for has been gobbled up by an even bigger one, so I feel a lot less guilty about turning my full fury on the oil companies.

I'm not mad at them about $4/gallon gas. I place the blame for that at about 40% George Bush and about 60% the American people who have collectively managed to forget about the oil crisis of the 1970's almost immediately after it happened. We have had thirty years to conserve and to develop alternative fuels. What did we do with that time? We designed Hummers and every manner of SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle - the original theory was that they were for hauling boats and camping equipment; lately it seems they are mostly for hauling groceries home from the WalMart) and developed ethanol (which still involves fossil fuels, cuts into the food supply and takes more energy to produce than it saves -- say what???).

I am trying really, really hard not to bitch about $4.00-gallon gas. (I am thrilled to report, I paid $3.99 and 9/10 for gas today. I reckon that's the last time I'll see under-$4 gas, maybe ever.) I've been saying for years that gas prices were too low. I have been right. I have also been saying that the jig would be up someday for the American economy if we did not deal with the urgent need to develop alternative fuels. I was right about that too. Sucks to be right sometimes. It was hard not to be right about those things because it was so plainly obvious.

So, why am I so mad at Exxon and the other oil giants these days? Because they are raking in profits at unprecedented levels and they have the opportunity to take a significant role in leading us out of this mess. Why don't the "Oil" companies redefined themselves as "Energy" companies and use some of those outrageous profits not to drill for oil in Alaska or under the ocean (thereby both potentially polluting virgin earth and for sure feeding America's addiction to oil), but to develop alternative, sustainable, clean sources of energy that will take us into the future. If they play their cards right their efforts could insure that they continue to exist after the oil runs out (and it will run out). They could become the hero-corporations leading the world into a cleaner and sustainable future.

They could do that. What the hey, while I'm dreaming, what if the car companies joined in the fun by developing engines that run on fuels other than gasoline, such as electric motors fueled by light-weight on-board solar panels? I don't know. They're the ones with the scientists and researchers on the payroll. I'm sure they could come up with something.

The oil companies and the car manufacturers have the money to invest in these new ventures. You'd think they would have the motivation to do so for survival reasons alone.

So, what's the problem? IDK.

Something to do with not wanting to risk any of that cash in the bank on risky investments some of which might not pan out?

America came into existence because a bunch of people risked their lives and their children's futures on a gamble. It has thrived because in every generation since, entrepreneurs, explorers, adventurers, thinkers, and just plain nut-jobs were willing to try new things and chart new courses across not only our vast continent but into space, under the sea and into sub-atomic realms as well. Their stories are terrifying and inspiring.

Where are those leaders, dreamers, visionaries, and river-boat gamblers today, when we need them desperately.

Why can't the would-be Cowboys who run the Big Oil companies for once step up into their heritage and do something that will benefit all of us, including their employees and stockholders.

God, I am such a dreamer.

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