New president has opportunity to kick U.S. oil habit |

New president has opportunity to kick U.S. oil habit

Kirk Caraway

“When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.” – John F. Kennedy

The next president is going to face a litany of daunting challenges: war in the Middle East, an economic meltdown at home, rising gas prices, global warming, and on and on and on. Makes you wonder why anyone would want the job.

But inside that dark cloud lurks a silver lining of opportunity. The next president will have a powerful mandate for changing this country’s direction. The only question is, which way?

Take a look at that list again. They all have something in common: oil. And they all could be solved by dealing with America’s oil habit.

There are plenty of people floating “solutions” for our oil problem. Just drill for more oil, they say, or build more refineries. But does that solve even the immediate problems?

The oil crisis is because of the growing demands of booming economies of China and its Asian neighbors, who are following the American role model, and they all want their gas-guzzling cars.

America’s 300 million people consume 25 percent of the world’s oil. The growing economies of Asia contain 3 billion people. Do the math. You could pump every drop of oil in the world, and you never will keep up with this demand.

Drilling for oil is yesterday’s solution, which distracts our attention and resources from seeking the solution for tomorrow.

The next resident of the White House has the opportunity to follow the example of President Kennedy and lay out a challenge to the American people to break this addiction to oil.

It’s pretty simple, really. Pass a law declaring that in 10 years, all new cars and light trucks/SUVs sold in this country have to be able to travel at least 100 initial miles on a gallon of gas.

Does that seem ambitious? Impossible? Actually, that’s a goal all the car companies could hit in five years, with no new technology. All they would need is to take the current hybrid-powered cars and add a few extra batteries and a socket to plug them in for recharging. The batteries then would run the vehicle for the first 50 miles or so before ever burning a drop of gas. After that, the gas engine can kick in. Since most car trips are within a few miles of home, people could drive for days – even weeks – without burning any gas.

Technology also is readily available to build electric cars that burn no gas at all and can be recharged in just a few minutes. Think about what your household budget would look like if you could cut the cost of fueling your car by 90 percent. Electric cars easily could be the standard form of transportation in 10 years if we decide to make it so.

Critics will charge that it’s too expensive to kick our oil addiction. Again, do the math. America imports more than 13 million barrels of oil per day, at the current price of $125 per barrel. That’s money flowing out of the country, building skyscrapers in Dubai and bombs in Baghdad. And the price keeps going up. That’s money that would boost our economy like a Saturn V rocket. Americans would find themselves with lots of extra dollars to spend on new houses, cars, food, etc.

And since we no longer would depend on Middle East oil, we wouldn’t have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars protecting those supplies, not to mention saving the lives of American soldiers.

Reducing oil consumption would have a big effect on the environment as well. It would cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars as well as the pollution from oil refineries.

The technology we develop as a result of such an effort would become our new export industry. As the Chinese discover they can’t afford to import oil, either, we can sell them American products and technology to help them kick their oil habit.

Kennedy gave the country nine years to meet his challenge. At the time, we didn’t have the technology to get a man to the moon. But that didn’t stop Kennedy: “We choose to go to the moon, not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.”

We have the technology to break our addiction to oil. It isn’t going to be easy, but it’s not as hard as we think.

– Kirk Caraway writes for Swift Communications. He can be reached through his blog at

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