Needed: A sane energy policy

April 28, 2011

Op-ed contributor Peter Morici talks about "Obama's failed oil policy" (April 26), but what has really failed is the lack of energy policies from President Reagan right down to President Obama.

The last president to talk seriously about a national energy policy was President Carter, and his call for a long-term vision was largely ignored. Thirty years later we still depend on fossil fuels and drive gas-guzzling vehicles. Blaming high gasoline prices on someone who's been in office less than three years is ludicrous.

Increasing domestic oil drilling will not solve our energy problems, as Mr. Morici implies. It is also counterproductive to pit one energy source against another — nuclear is better than wind, biofuels are better than solar, etc. To describe alternative energy technologies as "fanciful" is short-sighted. Oil will only be reasonably affordable for another 40 years at most, and if we don't continue to develop alternatives, by 2050 oil dependence itself will be considered "fanciful."

Our energy future depends on a mix of strategies. Natural gas has an affordable future of about 75 years, coal much longer. But coal is extremely polluting and the methods of extracting it are dangerous. Once solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels and wave energy are refined and their costs come down, they will produce energy without digging into the earth or using dangerous and costly nuclear technologies.

We should be able to use satellite and other technologies to determine things like what is a reasonable amount of land to devote to biofuels without threatening agricultural production. The same goes for where large-scale solar and wind production makes sense, and how much energy we can reasonably expect from these sources. Then policies and incentives can be put in place to reach the goals we set.

Our energy programs must also go beyond looking simply at energy production. For example, we should consider bold steps such as curbing the use of plastic, which is a petroleum product, and outlawing the "idiot lights" on electronic devices — which, when added up across the nation, cost billions of dollars a year.

I hope that healthy debate and discussion as we move forward will stop the blame game and the pontificating about short-term political "solutions," and instead focus on the survival of our children and grandchildren on this planet in the decades to come.

Brent Flickinger, Baltimore

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