Our nation has a seemingly unquenchable thirst for oil. Oil is the life blood of our economy and the car is an essential part of American life. Even as manufacturing jobs stampede to lands with cheaper labor, one in six jobs still revolve around the automobile. Americans have more cars per capita and drive more miles per capita than anyone else. More cars, more driving means more oil. The rising price of gasoline has increased grumbling but not lessened consumption. No oil would mean our economy and our lifestyle would sputter then grind to a halt. America needs oil!
This need for oil is a primary focus of the Bush Administration. It is the motivation behind major domestic and foreign policy initiatives. At home, the decision to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil exploration came amidst calls to become less dependent on foreign oil. Aboard, we are in Iraq, in part, in order to secure and control a sizeable portion of the world’s oil reserves. Over 2,000 Americans have died and thousands more have been wounded. There is no end is sight and the cry “No Blood for Oil” grows louder. But, our need for oil has led the Bush Administration and Congress to exchange pristine wilderness and American lives for the oil to keep our economy and our lifestyle moving at full throttle.
As someone with a Ph.D. in public policy analysis, I ask the question: can we change our dependency on oil? Yes, but we must begin now! It will take years of planning and commitment to move our nation away from oil. Our government and corporate America need to come together to develop and use these alternative sources such as bio-mass, geo-thermal, hydro, solar and wind. Our schools need to teach young people about alternatives and their uses. Students need to have their imaginations ignited to dream of ways to harness and use alternative sources of energy. Our attitudes must change, but change will come only when alternatives are readily available and easy to use.
While such change is possible, it will not happen overnight. Our nation’s dependency on oil is not going away anytime soon. Action on the long term use of alternative sources of energy must continue full steam ahead. But in the interim, oil will continue to fuel our economy and lifestyle. A secure oil supply is absolutely necessary . . . is it possible to find such a supply without more wilderness being destroyed or more blood being spilled?
The Bush Administration would have the American public believe that there are no other options. This is not true! There is a vast oil reserve less than 1,000 miles from our northern border. In a place called Alberta. The oil sands of Alberta hold an estimated 170 billion to 300 billion barrels of oil. More oil than Iraq. Potentially more oil than Saudi Arabia. Ten to 20 times more oil than the ANWR. The Alberta Oil Sands are already being developed. Oil is flowing. It is a safe, secure source. Canada is not only our neighbor but our closest ally and largest trading partner. The potential is great, but the Bush Administration is fumbling the ball. Recent trade disputes over softwood lumber have put access to this large oil reserve in jeopardy.
The Bush Administration needs to follow Senator Hatch’s (R-Utah) suggestions to resolve existing trade disputes and secure access to Alberta’s oil. No soldiers are needed. No fighting is necessary. The Bush Administration should encourage American oil companies to retrain their focus and invest in the development of the world’s largest oil reserve. This look north will ensure access to the oil needed to make our economy run and our comfortable lifestyle continue. Other countries such as China are moving to secure their access. Before it is too late, the American people need to shout, “No blood for oil! Look to Alberta . . . there is more oil . . . there is no need for American soldiers to die.”
Scott Key is a professor in the foundations, curriculum and teaching program at Fresno Pacific University’s School of Education. His doctorate in public policy analysis is from the University of Illinois.