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A Comprehensive Plan For Energy Independence And Lowering Gas Prices

By:  Charlie Brown, Lt. Col. USAF Ret., 7/22/08


For years politicians have passed the buck on hard choices we needed to make about our energy future----and today, we are all paying the price.
For years, they refused to raise fuel economy standards because the special interests were too strong. Now, American car companies that were once the hallmark of American innovation are on the verge of going out of business.  General Motors’ stock recently closed at its lowest price since 1954.
For years, instead of investing in a clean energy future, career politicians gave tax breaks to oil companies.  Today, those same companies are reaping record profits, while we’re paying $4.00 - $5.00 for a gallon of gasoline.  Worst of all, we are importing more oil from the same countries that serve as fertile recruitment ground for Al Qaeda today, than we did on 9/11.
The politicians got it wrong—way wrong.
Any patriotic American would drill for oil on the White House lawn if it would solve our energy problems.  But the hard truth is that we can’t drill our way out of this problem.
Nearly 80% of the land that is currently being leased by oil companies for drilling in the U.S. is not being used for this purpose. All of the world’s existing drill ships are booked solid for the next five years. The cost of new ships, most of which are made in Asia, has increased from $100 million per ship to almost $500 million per ship.
Workers with the specialized skills needed to expand domestic exploration are in short supply. Industry experts estimate it will take between 7,000 – 8,000 new workers just to fill the jobs on all the rigs already coming on line in the next two years.
Further complicating matters, we have not built a new refinery in the U.S. since 1976 and continue to import more and more refined gas.  Our refining capacity in 2020 will be only 100,000 more barrels per day than it was in 1981.  What good is it to produce more crude oil if we can’t refine it into gasoline?
The Bush Energy Department has said even if ANWR turned up massive amounts of crude, the net affect on U.S. Gas Prices would be $.01. In addition, a 2007 Department of Energy study found that access to coastal energy deposits would not add to domestic crude oil and natural gas production before 2030 and that the impact on prices would be “insignificant.”
The bottom line is that there is no easy solution that will provide immediate relief to our families from rising energy costs. The facts are clear. We use 25% of the world’s produced oil but hold only 3% of the world’s reserves.
And while this might all seem like bad news, there is a silver lining.
The current energy crisis provides us with the single greatest economic opportunity this country has seen since the industrial revolution if we are prepared to act.  If we are prepared to overcome this challenge the way we have so many before---with a comprehensive solution that increases domestic energy supply, puts speculators and OPEC countries on notice that America is serious about energy independence, and invests in good old fashioned American innovation and know how.
That’s why I am calling for a $100 billion, 7 year “Apollo” project to move the U.S. Government towards energy independence, and to jump-start the entire renewable energy market and economy in America.
The U.S. Government is the largest landholder and consumer of energy in the world. It holds more than 1.2 million property assets and spends over $14.5 billion per year on energy consumption.
Every year the Federal Government buys over 60,000 automobiles – not including military vehicles – and maintains over 3.3 billion square feet of office space. Yet, the Federal Government must obtain only 7.5% of its electrical energy from renewable sources by 2013 and it’s only mandated to reduce fuel consumption by 2% annually.
An Apollo program like I am proposing needn’t involve any new government spending.  Simply, we need to put the $14.5 billion worth of purchasing power that the world’s largest energy consumer is already spending on oil behind renewable and alternative energy---including wind, solar, bio-fuels, hydrogen, and nuclear power. The technologies already exist to free our nation from its economically unhealthy dependence on foreign oil, but the challenge is creating enough economies of scale to make renewable energy competitively priced.
But beyond the short term affect on oil prices for everyday consumers, America’s $100 billion Apollo Program will also help drive down the price of existing technologies like solar and wind power to the point that the other sectors of the economy would follow.  It’s important to remember that federal investment in technology has already served as the launching pad for many green technologies, including photovoltaic cells that were developed in their current form by the US space program.
We’ve even seen the military already moving in the direction of alternative fuels.  Last year, the Air Force announced plans to certify its entire fleet of bombers, fighters, transports and other aircraft to run on alternative fuels by 2011.  The Air Force has also installed the North America’s largest array of Solar Panels at Nellis Air Force Base.
And just recently, T. Boone Pickens, a Texas oil billionaire and conservative Republican – who is no preacher for Global Warming – announced plans to build the world’s largest wind farm in Texas in an attempt to produce 20% of America’s energy needs from wind power.  Pickens has said publicly that he’s not in this because he’s “going green,” he’s in it because he sees the limitless economic opportunities of alternative energy.  In his announcement, Pickens summed up the case, "Our dependence on imported oil is killing our economy. It is the single biggest problem facing America today. We are going to have to do something different in America. You can't keep paying out $600 billion a year for oil."
Finally, announcing that the United States is moving federal investment away from foreign oil would send a powerful message to OPEC regarding America’s willingness to move in a new energy direction---causing oil prices to decline in response to an anticipated drop in demand from the world’s largest energy consumer.
This phenomenon is not without precedent.  Just last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake’s comments about dropping demand from U.S. consumers due to limited purchasing power yielded a $6 dollar drop in the price of oil.  Similarly, President George H.W. Bush’s announcement that America was tapping its Strategic Petroleum Reserve prior to the first Gulf War yielded a 33% drop in oil prices.
Ultimately, energy independence is not a Democrat or Republican issue – it’s an American issue. It’s about our willingness to finally solve a problem that threatens our economy and our security, while creating good, high-paying jobs for our children, restoring the competitive edge of American businesses, and the purchasing power of American consumers.
The Brown 6 Point Comprehensive Energy Plan:

  1. A $100 billion “Apollo” project to move the Federal Government towards energy independence in the next seven years, jump-start the entire renewable energy market and economy in America, and to demonstrate to Oil Speculators and OPEC nations alike that America is committed to moving in a new energy direction.
  2. The Federal Government should immediately open the strategic petroleum reserves to increase the supply of oil on the market and provide relief for American families from skyrocketing gas prices.
  3. Build additional refineries to increase America’s capacity to produce gasoline, and to reduce our dependence on imported gasoline.
  4. Drill on the 80% of federal land that is leased for drilling but currently not being used as a means of further increasing traditional energy supply here in America.
  5. Close tax loopholes for oil companies and use that $18 billion to increase and make permanent tax incentives for research and development in renewable energy so companies can have the financial incentive and certainty to plan and undertake the advanced research that will drive our new energy economy.
  6. Increase the federal tax credit for consumers, business or personal, for investment in renewable energy products (such as solar panels for home energy or hybrid vehicles) to $5,000--- encouraging broad public investment in America’s energy independence.

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