Partisan politics rule the day in America. As much as anyone can try to deny that, the rhetoric coming from either side of the aisle tells a very different story. In one corner, the ever-emboldening Left, who after several years of meek concession-making seem to have finally bared their fangs after gaining some populist support. In the other, the stonewalling Right who seem to have dedicated their entire philosophy to opposing anything and everything they haven't themselves drafted.
So which wing of the American political machine is correct? Should we dump the oil companies into a ravine and ride the solar superhighway, or should we Drill Baby Drill and tap the resources sitting right under the feet (and rumps) of North Americans everywhere?
Proponents of either side can literally drone on for hours about how their side is right and the other view is pure crack-pottery at it's finest. The Left accuses the Right as being corporate lackeys, pushing a short-sighted agenda in the name of gross profit-mongering for Big Oil. The Right counters by accusing the Left of being anti-capitalists, pinko hippies and socialists chasing pipe dreams and trying to punish success instead of addressing reality.
The simple truth? Both are right, to an extent. Setting aside the venomous barbs that either side so relishes at lobbing at their opponents, each side raises a cogent argument -- without long-term development of a viable alternative energy source, we're merely delaying the inevitable and prolonging our pain at the pump. At the same time, when adjusting for inflation the price of crude oil per barrel has tripled since 2000, and shows no hints of slowing down anytime soon without a significant supply influx.
While the politicians take turns throwing the blame for America's energy woes at one another like monkeys slinging excrement, both problems persist. It makes for a terrific issue during election season, since both sides can fire up their bases and get votes while launching scathing tirades at one another and doing precisely jack-squat about the situation. But what about actually solving both America's short-term need for a greater fuel supply and the long-term need for alternative energy systems that will allow us to continue on when our precious petroleum becomes more and more scarce?
The politicians are mum. The spirit of cooperation for the greater good is invariably trumped by the need to score partisan points and avoid dropping those precious SuperPAC dollars. And that's the real bitch of the thing. In a time when rational, logical and most importantly impartial steps need to be taken, everyone is too busy clawing each others' eyes out to care.
"Well sir, what would you recommend in the place of the politicians?" you might ask. Honestly? Both sides need to cut the B.S. and get down to brass tacks. The truth is, as much as we love riding the gravy train, the oil isn't going to last forever. Data between the U.S. Census Bureau and the Central Intelligence Agency reveals that even in 2010, the world was producing only 74 million barrels per day, with the U.S. alone consuming nearly 20 million of those barrels. Factor in all of Europe and China, who in 2010 consumed 13 million and 9.4 million barrels each respectively, and you can see how easily things can spiral out of control. Whether supply finally tops out ten years or one hundred years from now, the fact remains that eventually there simply won't be enough to go around. Alternative energy sources need to see investment and development as quickly as possible -- the sooner we can have a stable, functional alternative, the sooner we don't have to scramble when things get dire.
At the same time, at least for the short-term, additional fossil fuel sources such as the basically defunct Keystone XL should be considered, although steps should be taken to limit their environmental impact as much as possible. The simple fact is that we're going to need fuel during the greater transition to other sources of energy. Technological development takes time, especially for large-scale projects like basically overhauling the entirety of modern society's energy infrastructure. During that time, people still need to get to work and transport goods. The world can't simply grind to a halt while we try to develop the next generation of energy technology.
But without some bipartisan cooperation, all we'll ever look forward to is one or the other, depending on how the balance of power falls in the Congress. Either endless drilling with no forward thinking beyond tomorrow's oil prices in sight, or eternal stymieing of any attempt to relieve pressure on the U.S. oil market tomorrow under the cry of a better tomorrow possibly thirty years away. With both sides unwilling to meet in the middle and hash out what would be good for the nation instead of good for their party-line, we can look forward to more non-action, non-planning and non-commitment.
But hey, election season only lasts so long, right?
By. Shea Laverty for Oilprice.com