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Last week I saw some big (and possibly surprising) news from President Obama: plans to open the Atlantic coastline, the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and Northern Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling.
“The answer is not drilling everywhere all the time,” Obama said. “But the answer is not, also, for us to ignore the fact that we are going to need vital energy sources to maintain our economic growth and our security.”
The move appears to be an attempt to placate Republicans, who have historically pushed for an increase in American oil exploration and drilling (drill, baby, drill anyone?). However, it is unclear whether this goodwill gesture will be enough to satisfy Conservatives.
Not surprisingly, the expansion plan has angered many who are concerned about the effects of drilling on the environment. Obama tried to address this in his speech.
“There will be those who strongly disagree with this decision,” Obama said, “including those who say we should not open any new areas to drilling. But what I want to emphasize is that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy.”
The guy has a point. Like I talked about a few weeks ago, Americans are less concerned about the environment than ever in the presence of high unemployment rates and an unstable economy. And this theory behind the decision makes sense: the less money we use to import oil, the more money we have for other things, like investing in renewable energy or creating green jobs. However, it doesn’t seem very likely that offshore drilling will affect oil prices anytime soon.
It’s been rough going against climate skeptics and legislators who seem determined to fight anything with Obama’s stamp on it. This action might make the road ahead a little easier.
To soften the blow, President Obama also announced strict fuel economy regulations that will take effect in coming years. By 2016, the average miles per gallon achieved by carmaker’s fleets must be 34.1, although some expect that to increase to 35. This means that small trucks will likely average about 29 mpg while cars will get about 38 mpg. The new regulations will cost new car buyers an average of $926 in six years, although they can expect to save over $3,000 in gas money during their vehicle’s lives.
President Obama appears to be trying to please everyone. Maybe we can get some measure of his success during the upcoming climate talks in the Senate.
Sooo I guess I’m still on this biofuels kick. Here’s something pretty neat going on in my hometown – Madison, Wisconsin. Basically, they’re making jet fuel (and regular fuel, too) out of biomass, or leftover biological stuff like waste and plant materials.
But I’ll take it easy on the new biofuels now. I want to ask a question: why the heck haven’t we adopted an entirely new fuel model?
Well, in America, we’re stubborn, individualistic, and set in our ways, for starters. But there’s something bigger going on here.
Let’s think about it. For the past 150 years or so, we’ve stuck a pipe in the ground and gotten in return an energy-rich mixture of ancient fossils (thank you, dinos). It makes our cars go, it powers our tractors, it even starts our rickety old lawnmowers. Basically, we’ve had it easy, and we coasted along intent on getting the most out of oil as we possibly could.
And now here we are. Oil is running out, the planet is heating up, and things are generally just going to pot. We want an answer! Yet here we sit, most of us still driving fuel-dependent vehicles that get marginally better miles per gallon than cars ten or twenty years ago. Are we just that resistant to change? Maybe.
But here’s the thing: right now, there’s not an easy way out of our oil dependency, or even our “dirty energy” dependency. There is no single front-runner in the biofuel or alternative fuel industry. Instead, there are all kinds of small, somewhat helpful projects going on, and at this point, we don’t know if we will have one dominant solution or many. Maybe there is no one solution, or maybe we just haven’t found it yet. We have no choice but to keep looking, and I give a lot of credit to those who are. There’s just not an easy fix – hard to admit in a society thrilled with one-click buying and fast ways to lose weight. We didn’t get here overnight, and we can’t go back overnight.
So the next time you’re wondering why the heck we aren’t all just driving electric cars, think about just how easy we’ve had it.