Chapter Eight Excerpt: Peak Oil, Energy Security, and the Car of the Future

We have a serious problem. America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.–President Bush, 2006

In the absence of revolutionary changes in energy policy, we are risking multiple disasters for our country that will constrain living standards, undermine our foreign- policy goals, and leave us highly vulnerable to the machinations of rogue states.–Senator Richard Lugar, 2006

The sun is setting on the oil ageOur ever- worsening addiction to oil makes America less secure. Since 1990, we have fought two wars in the Persian Gulf. We suffered a major terrorist attack funded largely by Persian Gulf oil money. Every year we send more than $250 billion overseas because we import most of our oil. Oil prices keep spiking above $70 a barrel, and gasoline above $3 a gallon. The economic lifeblood of our country is held hostage to countries that are antidemocratic and politically unstable–and to terrorists who keep targeting the world’s oil infrastructure. Price spikes above $100 a barrel (and $4 a gallon) are all but inevitable in the coming years. And many fear we may be close to seeing worldwide oil production peak and then decline, which will bring an era of steadily rising oil and gasoline prices.

It’s no wonder that politicians–even those who don’t worry about global warming–keep talking about oil. So why haven’t we taken any serious action on oil for decades? The answer is simple– reducing U.S. oil consumption requires a major government-led effort, such as much tougher mileage standards, and our political leaders have rejected such efforts (except for ones that are merely cosmetic).

The astonishing January 2006 statement by President Bush’s EPA administrator, Stephen Johnson, bears repeating: “Are we going to tell people to stop driving their cars, or do we start investing in technology? That’s the answer, investing in those technologies.” This false choice leaves the nation with no oil policy except strong, empty rhetoric suggesting that the cure for our addiction to oil can be found in happy talk about future technology.

Here’s what President Bush said the next month, in February 2006:

Our nation is on the threshold of new energy technology that I think will startle the American people. We’re on the edge of some amazing breakthroughs–breakthroughs all aimed at enhancing our national security and our economic security and the quality of life of the folks who live here in the United States.

The president has actually misdirected more than a billion dollars toward the development of hydrogen cars, a solution that will not address either our oil or climate problems in our lifetime, as we will see. I also examine in this chapter why the peak in global oil production is less of a threat to our way of life than is widely perceived, and why peak oil won’t avert catastrophic climate change.

We will see why the win- win policies needed to avoid Hell and High Water would also make this nation energy- independent by midcentury, even with declining domestic oil supplies. Finally, this chapter describes the car and fuel of the future.

One Response to Chapter Eight Excerpt: Peak Oil, Energy Security, and the Car of the Future

  1. Ken Ott says:

    I strongly agree with your sentiments and look forward to reading your book! Have just finished Twilight in the Desert, Powerdown, The End of Suburbia, The Party’s Over and Crossing the Rubicon. (phew!) SustainLane Government is joining the fray with a new book out this April on sustainability of the top 50 U.S. cities by population. Please send me a note if you’d like to review it.


    Ken Ott