Sunday, October 15, 2006

An Emerging Voter Concern: Energy Independence?

A friend forwarded to me an opinion piece that appeared in the New York Times a couple of days ago. It had a non-catchy title “The Energy Mandate” by Thomas L. Friedman, and I wondered why he sent me this. I read it anyway.

It started me thinking.

Remember back a few months when the government of Brazil announced that it was going to achieve energy independence this year? Brazil? At the time of the announcement, I thought about their oil and gas operations in their offshore Santos Basin and thought that there was no way that could happen. Then I started reading, and discovered that they had put together an ethanol program. Ethanol from sugar cane. Brazil has lots of sugar cane, and there is an easy and efficient process to convert sugar to ethanol. Ask anyone who has concocted a barrel of mead.

The op/ed piece that my friend forwarded to me was about recent poll findings by James Carville’s Democracy Corps, a voter concerns polling organization. They isolated the number one concern on the minds of American voters.

No, not the Iraq war, but it’s related.
No, not the War on Terror, but it’s related.
No, not Homeland Security, but it’s related.

Americans are most concerned with Energy Independence.

Carville’s poll asked the following question:
"Which of the following would you say should be the two most important national security priorities for the administration and Congress over the next few years?"

42%: reducing dependence on foreign oil
26%: combating terrorism.
25%: the war in Iraq
21%: securing our ports, nuclear plants and chemical factories
21%: addressing dangerous countries like Iran and North Korea
12%: strengthening America's military

Wait, you say, that adds up to 147%, what’s the deal? Well, the question asked what should be the two most important priorities. So that’s why.

Reducing dependence on foreign oil is the number one concern among Americans by almost two times the next highest concern. This explains the appearance of this piece that appeared in the Opinion/Analysis section of FortBendNow.

But wait, there’s more. Carville pollster Stan Greenberg reported this:
“When we lay out different plans for how to deal with Iraq, any plan that also includes energy independence tops any other plan that doesn't. People are not expressing this view because they are worried about price, but because they are starting to understand that our oil dependence is fueling a host of really bad national security problems. There is frustration that leaders have not taken it up. There is a sense that the public is ahead of the leaders, and there is actually a sense of relief when anyone talks about [energy independence] with any seriousness."
To become truly energy independent, Americans feel that this country needs to lead the way in alternative fuels, make high demands on automakers to produce energy-efficient cars, and much more stringent energy codes on buildings and appliances.

Alternative fuels from agricultural products.

Right now, we are paying farmers not to grow crops in order to make it economically feasible for them to operate. Let’s do away with farm subsidies. Open the floodgates and let them produce as much food as they can. What we don’t eat or export, we process into ethanol and biodiesel.

Biodiesel. Nick Lampson often mentions biodiesel. He has invested in a local company that is making its business the efficient production of biodiesel. He sees the future clearly and is acting accordingly. And what the heck, what’s wrong with making a profit along the way?

And isn’t that something we can all be doing? Finding ways to produce alternative fuels? Supporting companies that are doing this? Demanding that our government not only make this a priority, but shift their support away from the fossil fuel industry and toward a full speed ahead development of biofuels?

What? Remove supports for oil and gas? Yep. The tables have turned. Big Oil has become the enemy, not the savior. They keep us dependent on foreign oil. They have become the problem. They make us less secure, not more. They are heavily invested in foreign oil and gas exploration and development. They want us to buy that oil from them and their terrorist-supporting partners.

It has to stop. Anyone who utters words about homeland security but is not concerned with the power and influence of oil imports is either misled or morally corrupt.

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