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Facing serious oil supply problem

06/05/2008

By Olin Potter

Back in the 1970s we had an OPEC embargo. In the 1980s we had a supply blip. Now, since Congress just sat on their hands, we're facing a very serious supply problem with oil. This time the demand for oil, worldwide, is outstripping the supply due to Asian development. There is a rapidly growing middle class occurring in both China and India which was non-existent during the prior shortages. This is putting a steady and growing new demand on top of the world's normal annual increases.

This time Congress must act, and act responsibly, to develop our own sources, sources that we have had for years but refused to develop.

Let's separate the oil requirement from our energy needs for the moment because there are many sources for alternative energy but none for the need for crude oil. Oil is the source of so many other products in addition to fuel for which substitutions cannot be made. Our chemical industry, for instance, depends upon the hydrocarbons in oil for a vast array of products. How do we make this country dependent upon our own sources? We develop the sources that we own, that have been available even back in the '70s but have not been developed.

Sources:

    Northern Alaska, may I dare say ANWAR?
    Expand the use of our coastal areas.
    Continue the work the Army is doing in its conversion of coal to oil.
    Tar sands and oil shale in the western states.

The use of these sources has up to now been held hostage to the radical branch of the environmental movement. This special interest group has controlled key elements in Congress by liberal donations to re-election campaign coffers to such a degree that the country's vital interests have been ignored.

Remember this is the same mentality that burned a western ski area development because it damaged the environment. This group claims that irreparable damage to the flora and fauna would result. But look at the successful oil recovery that has existed in Alaska for years. Another argument against using these sources is that it will take too long. Well, Congress has put it off for the last 30 odd years; it's time to get with the program now. They can speed things up buy reducing the permit requirements now used as road blocks against crude oil development. Since ANWAR is federal land, Congress has a leg up on speeding things along.

We also need to be able to refine the product once we have it in hand. Why hasn't a new refinery been built in this country in 30 years? Because (it's been said) that it would take 300 permits to do one new unit in addition to the attitude associated with the NIMBY principle.

Is Congress acting on any of this? No. Instead they are suing OPEC and beating up on our oil companies rather than tackling the real problem of increasing our domestic supply so that America can gain oil independence. To show their constituents their concern about the price of gas at the pump, they came up with this grand plan of subsidizing the conversion of food (corn) to ethanol.

This of course immediately increased the acreage planted to corn, and since the corn price was more lucrative than soy, wheat, etc. these became scarcer. If you ask why the price of meat, bread and food has increased, in general, blame our Congress people who undoubtedly never took Econ. 101. All of this for the possible 2 percent increase in available automobile fuel.

America is heading for more than one crisis. Congress should have their noses rubbed in this problem until they understand that they should support the oil companies in the production of more domestic oil and the construction of refineries. This means subsidization and permit reduction. Call them, write them, insist that they stop their crazy ethanol program and start immediately on producing more oil.

Olin E. Potter lives in Waitsfield.
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