ShinyKobold's Final Paper
As we head into the 21st century, the future of the United States and our way of life depends on a stable and economical source of energy. Remaining dependent on foreign sources of energy has and can have devastating effects on our economy. Events like the oil embargo of the 70's show how vulnerable the United States is to fluctuations in oil production and prices. Without a way to power all of our vehicles and machinery, businesses couldn’t carry on normal operations and our lives would quite literally, grind to a halt. As tensions in the Middle East increase, energy from the region is becoming a liability, for without it, our nation could not function. Even with a stable supply of oil, there is only a finite supply left for the world to exploit and it is being rapidly used up. Before it is too late, we as a nation and as individuals should do whatever is necessary to become energy independent.
There are two main problems with the current energy sources that, if left unchecked could lead to disaster in the near future. The first most imminent is the increasing dependency of the US on foreign oil. The complications this could cause can be seen through looking at our history. The Energy Crisis of 1973, caused by an embargo by OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries illustrates the problem with relying on outside sources for energy. OPEC, in retaliation to US and Israeli victories in the Yom Kippur War, placed an embargo on petroleum exports to the west. The effects were felt immediately as oil prices rose and gas shortages appeared throughout the country. Long lines could be found at gas stations where people were trying to get their gasoline before it ran out. While the embargo was eventually lifted, it left a profound impact on our nation and the course of our future.
Today, the Middle East continues to be a hot spot for conflict and political dispute. US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and its support of Israel has also increased tension between the US and the Middle East. The threat of losing our oil supply and our need for oil have never been greater. While the US has scaled back its amount of oil imports during the 1970’s and 1980’s, the number is on the rise again. Net oil imports account for nearly 50% of total US oil consumption and this figure is increasing (http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/ 25opec/sld002.htm).
Current trends toward increased dependency on oil means that the US will be more vulnerable than ever to the whims of OPEC. Oil could possibly be used as a bargaining chip to influence our actions or to force our hand in political situations because our need for petroleum is so great. Although these eventualities are only “what if’s,” there are some problems with petroleum that are inevitable.
Even if our relations with OPEC remain friendly, there will eventually come a time when all of the world’s oil reserves run out. Current projections on the total world population show an increase from about 6 billion, to 7.6 billion in the next 15 years (http://www.spe.org/spe/jsp/basic/0,,1104_1008218_1108884,00.html). More people will be using cars and the expansion of business and trade will continuously require more and more oil. Before petroleum dependency reaches the point of no return, several steps should be taken to wean the US off of oil, and onto more reliable renewable sources of energy.
There are several types of new energy sources that could be employed instead of petroleum. One of the most promising is solar power, a good choice because of the abundance of sunlight. Hydrogen fuel cells are another alternative that could one day replace gasoline as the primary fuel for automobiles. The list goes on with geothermal energy and biomass sources. There are many options to explore, but much more research has to be done before they can become feasible sources of energy.
To the general public, cost has always been the problem in implementing these types of energy sources. We tend to think more for the short term rather than what is best for the future. The solution I propose to encourage the usage of alternative fuels is to provide incentives to those willing to take the first step. Money spent investing in alternative fuels and hybrid cars could be used as tax deductions while higher taxes will be put on gasoline sales. On the level of business and research, a similar set of standards could be established. To help further research on these systems, which would eventually lower the cost for consumers, extra grants would be given to groups that are researching new energy sources. Likewise, more taxes would be laid on car manufacturers that continue producing typical gasoline powered cars. While doing this all at once would cause severe problems, gradual passage of stricter regulations and taxes over the time period between now and 2030 would make this possible.
The road to energy dependence will by no means be easy or without obstacles. It may not seem like the costs will outweigh the benefits at first, but continuing to use petroleum as our main source of fuel will be far more devastating in the end. If we work together now to implement new types of energy, we may encounter initial problems, but the future will ultimately be smoother than if we ignore the possible outcomes of remaining dependent on foreign sources.
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