Tigerdad’s Energy Plan – How the Heck Did We Get Here?

T. Boone Pickens took his shot at solving the energy crisis, now it’s my turn. Of course, I can’t spend sixty million dollars to advertise my plan and I don’t have three billion dollars to invest in it. That might limit my audience a bit and is probably going to impact my credibility. But, what the heck, you don’t know until you try.

Boone is 100% right about one thing, we have to get off our butts and start doing something now about energy. As a matter of fact, yesterday was too late. The sad thing is that we had a chance to avoid this entire mess. You young wippersnappers won’t remember it, but I was there during the oil embargo of 1973. I sat in gas lines every other day so that I could buy five or ten gallons. More than once the pump went dry before I got my fuel.

If we had stayed the course with the energy initiatives that were put in place then, we wouldn’t be facing the mess we have now. But, one of the shortfalls of a free market economy is that what the people want, the people get. The American public has a short memory and, as soon as the oil flow returned to normal, we slowly started to forget about the pain and our resolve not to be caught with our pants down again.

As a society, we starved funding for mass transit systems. We gave lip service to increasing automotive fuel economy. We let our pursuit of alternative energy research fall back to bare subsistence levels. We failed to develop and enforce comprehensive recycling plans.

Our oil industry took the short sighted approach that there was more money to be made buying foreign oil than continuing to develop our own fields. You really don’t want to argue this point with me, I worked in that industry in the 70’s and 80’s. In 1973 the U.S. had an average of 1200 active rotary oils rigs. An active rig is one that is actually drilling for oil. The more rigs that are drilling, the more oil that will be found. By 1981 that had increased to 4000 and we were well on the way to oil independence. Then the oil price dropped (gee imagine that…supply, demand). Rather than take a forward thinking stance, oil companies stopped drilling and started capping wells. By 1999 the count was down to just over 600. (You doubt? Active rig counts as far back as 1949 can be found here.) This miserable performance at reinvesting by “Big Oil” is one of the reasons I’m such a hard nose on windfall oil profits.

Finally, as individuals, we bought bigger and bigger gas guzzling SUVs that never carry more than one or two people, dual rear tire pickup trucks that never carried a payload higher than 500 lbs and RV’s the size of Greyhound buses. We stopped using fans to cool ourselves and cranked up the air conditioning. We….oh, you get the point. We got arrogant, extravagant and stupid.

That being said, how do we fix it. First, we tell ourselves, until we truly understand, that this process is not going to be pain free. TANSTAAFL. Business is not going to be able foot the entire cost for what needs to be done. Government (us) and individuals (us again) are going to have to pony up our share. Second, we have to plan for decades, not months or even years. Third, as a society we have to commit to staying with it until the job is done. It’s likely at some point that costs will start to come down on oil as we move away from depending on it. We can’t take the easy way out at that point. We can’t let ourselves fall back into old habits. Finally, we must accept that ANY use of fossil fuels is a stopgap solution and when we’re done ALL energy comes from renewable sources.

I’m going to tackle this in four installments. The next one is titled,

“OPEC, I Think It’s Time That We Started Seeing Other People”

See you around!

TD

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