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Time To Take A New Path

Editorial for July 24, 2008

With prices at the gas pump higher than ever, it's natural to look for ways to solve our short-term economic problems. We've heard about the "gas tax holiday"; drilling more; opening up more areas for potential development.

Yet we've tried that way for decades now. Time after time, we as consumers are bamboozled into thinking that finding and drilling more oil will solve our problems. And if we do increase the supply, prices may fall for a short time ... then there they go again, rocketing toward the clouds.

Recent calls by the oil companies and from some political leaders for more drilling within the United States and off the nation's continental shelf is just a shell game. Unfortunately, expanded drilling represents a false promise that will not solve our nation's energy woes in the long run -- or even the short run, for that matter.

The biggest problem with the calls for more drilling and opening up more public land is this: The oil companies currently own millions of acres that they have not seen fit to put into production. For example, according to CNNMoney.com, the oil industry already has leases covering 90 million acres off the shores of the United States -- and 70 million of those acres are not in production.

It's not difficult to figure out why: Sitting on that acreage keeps oil off the market, thereby driving up prices. Sure, the oil corporations would love to get more land under their control -- it's like having your own bank -- but will it make a nickel's difference in the price of a gallon of gas? Probably not.

Rather than move into the 21st century by tapping new technologies, the energy companies and some political opportunists realize it's easier to just stampede us into thinking that if we let the oil companies drill wherever they want with minimal restrictions, we'll soon be purring along in our SUVs and paying 79 cents a gallon again.

How foolish are we?

Let's take a reverse approach: Instead of giving the energy conglomerates more and more land to sit on, we should direct the oil barons to start using the leases they already have -- or forfeit them so someone else can put that land into production.

But there is a larger issue: The ultimate solution should not be to try to find and drill every last pocket of oil, because even if we do that, it's going to run out at some point soon. It's long past time to seriously turn to an innovative approach.

We believe this nation is ready, even eager, for a complete revamping of our national infrastructure that would invest in and develop renewable fuels of all kinds -- instead of continuing with the failing, expensive, and sometimes destructive 19th century technology of drilling for oil.

Revamping our energy infrastructure could create hundreds of thousands of jobs and potentially spark an economic revival in the United States and the world, while making our planet a cleaner and healthier place at the same time.

How many times are we going to go through these energy crises? At some point, we have to make the difficult transition to new sources of cleaner, more plentiful energy. It is foolish and counterproductive to simply try to delay the process one more time.

JB

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