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Foreign Oil: Public Enemy #1

iStock_000007647644XSmallAs a country we are now far more aware of our fragile security. 9/11 opened our eyes to the reality that there are those who seek the destruction of our nation and the death of our citizens. Truth is that while 9/11 created a universal awareness of the fragility of our security, the issue had already existed. 9/11 just woke most of up. What does that have to do with foreign oil, you might ask? 

Everything.

I believe that ultimately the biggest threat to our national security is our continued dependence on foreign oil. It wreaks havoc on our economy, creates foreign wars (Iraq) we have no place being involved in, puts us at the mercy of foreign oil cartels, and provides fuel for terrorists hatred of us. It can, and has, brought the U.S. economy to its knees and is a bigger threat as every year passes.

This sounds like a plea for more off shore drilling where we can have greater control of our destiny. It is not. Obviously the BP fiasco is a testament to the “benefits” of off shore drilling–just ask the people of the Gulf Coast.

But lest we blame others, we, the American public, should be disappointed in ourselves—we have seen the signs of the severity of the problem for years, but have not demanded action. I am old enough to remember the two shortages in the 70s, waiting on lines for hours for those few open gas stations in order to fill up our tanks (and being able to do so only on designated days based on license plate #). But when the lines were gone, we quickly forgot about the problem. Even just two years ago when gas prices rose to $4+ a gallon, the public was again sensitized to our oil addiction, but subsequent falling prices took the steam out of the public’s concern.

As it relates to the cars we drive,  auto manufacturers over the years have grudgingly increased the fuel efficiency of vehicles they have sold. Interestingly, the non-domestic manufacturers grew more rapidly as a direct result of their understanding of the issue of the American public’s interest in more fuel efficient vehicles, while the domestic manufacturers needed to be dragged along. But again we should blame ourselves for the lack of progress on this front as well–do we really need oversized and fuel inefficient Hummers and SUVs, and if the American public desires such vehicles, shouldn’t those that do pay a steep price for that luxury?

So here’s a plan:

1. Create a $1 a gallon national gasoline tax. Gas prices would jump to close to $4 a gallon overnight. Yes, I obviously know this hurts the economy which is struggling to rebound, but only a rapid jump in gas prices will force a charge in our  behavior, while providing funding for alternative energy programs. By the way, this would personally stink for me. I am a consultant who drives to clients constantly.

2. Mandate an average 40 miles-per-gallon efficiency for all new vehicles within 5 years. Obviously this will change the marketing strategies for auto manufacturers. By the way, didn’t we just bail out GM. How about a little support as a quid pro quo?

3. Create a heavy tax, $25,000 for any vehicle purchased which gets less than 40 miles-per-gallon. This would be a tax payable immediately on purchase/lease of the new vehicle. Wouldn’t  that make someone think twice before they purchased an inefficent gas guzzler? And if they still did, OK there’s more $ for alternative energy funding.

4. Invest the tax dollars generated by the $1 federal tax and the “gas guzzler” tax into R&D of alternate energy and public transportation.

There may be serious flaws in these suggestions. Perhaps people far smarter than I have better ideas. But the problems that exist need big solutions, not marginal programs that hardly put a dent into the issues. Most importantly, we need decisive action. Our national security is at stake.

What do you think?




More Strumings

2 Comments

  1. Dan Ditzler says:

    Absolutely, oil dependence is a national security issue, Lonny. Could not agree more. Sad that we both remember gas lines. This has been going on far too long.

    Politics of it is depressing, too. $4 per gallon seems to be the trigger point to political pressure to lower prices at the pump. Not sure another tax is going to have desired result.

    Current BP disaster is Murphy’s Law at its worst. But forcing drilling so far offshore is one of the reasons this disaster is not easily solved now. Unfortunately, we need oil for near-term transition to alternative energy. We need to sensiblly manage our own resources and to stop importing all of our energy.

    I did have a late day meeting with an engineer who believes electric charge vehicles are a lot closer to full commercialization than most of us realize. I hope he is right. American industry and government need to be a lot smarter (and more cooperative) about this.

  2. Lonny Strum says:

    Thanks for your thoughts Dan. Glad Obama crushed BP this evening. BP CEO wants his “life back”. And we want our environment back. Looks like nobdoy wins.

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