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Commentary Last Updated: Aug 22nd, 2008 - 00:53:26

A vision for change: An American energy policy
By William John Cox
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Aug 22, 2008, 00:09

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Mr. Obama, it increasingly appears that the presidential election in November will be lost -- perhaps not by you, but by the rest of us who are being abandoned along the campaign trail in your race for office.

There is always the risk that the election will again be stolen by the Republicans, by deceptive and negative campaigning, a contrived last-minute national emergency, outright election fraud, or by a corrupt majority of the Federalist Supreme Court.

You may lose the election because of latent racism inflamed by negative campaign ads and silently revealed in the secrecy of the voting booth, but the greatest risk to your campaign is that you are selling your soul to the political devil for the support of powerful forces whose interests are not the same as the rest of us -- of every creed and color -- whose only strength is our individual vote.

Even though you are opposed by one of the weakest candidates ever fielded by the Republican Party, your traction is slipping and the polls are narrowing. Some of us have had the audacity to hope for a real change and not just more rhetoric, empty promises and politics as usual, but we are rapidly losing confidence in your ability and commitment to make a real difference in our daily lives and the future of our children.

This note not only highlights the pitfalls of your chosen path, but offers an alternative and imaginative vision of an America that decided to generate the energy to power its national highways from outer space -- a vision of the future in which all of us win.

Same ole, same ole

Mr. Obama, working people are now paying more than $4 a gallon for gasoline to get to jobs that pay less and less with fewer and fewer benefits; we can�t afford to take our families on driving vacation to visit our national parks, and we owe more on our SUVs than they are worth. With the price of natural gas up 11 percent since last year and with heating oil costing 36 percent more, many retired seniors will simply have to bundle up and suffer the cold this winter. However, the oil companies just posted the most massive net incomes in corporate history, and the employees of Exxon-Mobil, Chevron and British Petroleum have contributed more money to you this year than to your opponent. Whose side are you on?

You say we should explore nuclear power as a part of the �energy mix�; however, you personally weakened a nuclear safety bill after �consulting� with the Exelon Corporation, whose employees have contributed more than $180,000 to your political campaigns. Is your political pandering to America�s nuclear power industry the kind of change the rest of us can safely live with?

You�ve said, �I�m not just going to take a bunch of contributions from the coal industry and do their bidding, any more than I would only listen to the environmentalists�; however, the reality is that you supported an energy bill in 2005 that provided a $1.8 billion tax credit for investments in �clean-coal� facilities.

That same legislation created a �Renewable Fuels Standard� that will double the amount of ethanol used by 2012, even though the ethanol boom has diverted 100 million tons of grain from human diets to American car engines and has driven double-digit increases in the cost of food for all of us. Did your subsidized flights on the corporate jets of Archer Daniels Midland, the nation�s largest ethanol producer, influence your decision?

You�ve said your energy goals are �ambitious,� but they are really more of the same ole, same ole. It sounds like you are now willing to support offshore drilling, even though it cannot possibly produce domestic oil for years and you will allow the oil companies to ravage our fragile environment for even greater profits.

You say you are for a �comprehensive� energy plan. However, forcing oil companies to drill on the 68 million acres of federal land they already lease will further threaten our shared environment, and a windfall-profits tax on oil companies to fund an �Emergency Energy Rebate� will simply recycle the taxes back into company coffers. It�s easy to say that you want to invest $150 billion in clean energy and to produce 10 percent of our electricity from renewables by 2012 and 25 percent by 2025. But, exactly how will you do that, if you are elected?

There�s little difference between your �New Energy for America� and Senator McCain�s �Lexington Project,� especially since you have now reversed direction on offshore drilling. Your proposed alliance with the Senate�s �Gang of 10� to allow increased drilling and to invest in renewables is not a visionary energy policy -- it�s just more hot air. The truth about energy is that nothing proposed by you or your opponent will make one whit of a difference when we pull up to the gas pump, either now or in the future.


Mr. Obama, the $146 a barrel price of oil we just experienced was not caused by any specific short-term interruption in supplies, as in the past. Speculation on futures may have played some part in the spike of recent prices; however, the reality is that global demand for petroleum far exceeds available supply.

Although there has been some reduction in domestic consumption, and the price of oil has now dropped to below $114 a barrel, worldwide demands will not decrease. Vehicle fuel is only one use for petroleum, which is also required for many essential industrial and agricultural derivatives such as rubber, plastic and fertilizer that are driving the expanding economies of countries such as China, India and Brazil.

Petroleum supplies are finite and once half of all oil has been extracted, it will become increasingly difficult and eventually impossible to sustain any increase in oil production. Once the production of oil stalls at �peak� oil, access to the remaining oil will undoubtedly become the leading cause of global military conflict.

Pessimists contend that peak oil has already arrived, while optimists believe the peak is still several decades in the future. But, in either case, the day is rapidly approaching when we will have to secure alternatives to petroleum if we are to survive.

In the meantime, our national security is becoming increasingly tied to the petroleum supplies of our two primary global competitors: China -- the world�s fastest-growing consumer of oil, second only to the United States in its consumption -- who holds almost $1 trillion in U.S. bonds and has threatened a �nuclear option� to trigger a dollar crash if the U.S. continues to apply pressure over currency reform, and Russia -- the world�s second leading producer of oil and a top producer of natural gas -- who has been earning enormous windfall profits from its petroleum exports and who has the fastest growing economy in the G8 Group.

In American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, Kevin Phillips draws many parallels between the United States and the rise and fall of the Spanish, Dutch and English Empires and wonders if the U.S. will be displaced in the 21st century global transition from oil to a post-oil regime by a new leading economic power, most likely an Asian one.

By 2025, the U.S. will have to import three-quarters of its expected 30 million barrels per day of consumption. Two of every three barrels of oil used in the U.S. is burned by cars and trucks and that basic fact must be the central focus of any American energy policy.

Although many of us are not as informed about these global realities as we should be and most of us only think about energy policy as we stand in shock and awe at the gas pump watching the dollars flash by, we are not alone in wondering if there is any substance in your message of hope and change. Many Democratic leaders have recently expressed their fears that you�ve yet to convert your popularity into practical solutions.

You�ve said you want to keep America safe by achieving �true energy security.� You�ve said the trillion dollars we�ve spent, unnecessarily in Iraq, could have allowed us to invest �hundreds of billions of dollars in alternative sources of energy, to grow our economy, save our planet, and end the tyranny of oil. . . . We could have rebuilt our roads and bridges, laid down new rail and broadband and electricity systems. . . .� It�s easy to make a speech about what might have been, but what is your vision for our future?

If elected, you will either preside over the economic collapse of the United States or lead our nation up the path to its salvation. Make a choice -- now -- before it�s too late!

A vision

Mr. Obama, imagine for a moment that the Interstate Highway System and most major streets and highways in America were improved to provide a constant source of electromagnetic energy sufficient to power a standard automobile at freeway speeds, with comfortable seating for five adults, anywhere in America at no cost to the operator.

Imagine the introduction of triple-hybrid cars designed to operate primarily on electromagnetic energy supplied through the surface of all highways and freeways, and which are equipped with small fuel-efficient internal combustion engines to supplement rechargeable batteries for trips on local streets and byways.

Imagine we could travel for free throughout the United States as a matter of national privilege. We could get to our jobs without having to work for an hour each day just to pay for getting there. We would have more money to spend on vacations, and we would be able to tour our great nation, see the grand sights, and visit with our friends and relatives along the way.

Is this a realistic dream? If we decided to provide free power on our highways as a matter of national policy, where would we obtain the energy?

A miraculous source of abundant energy

Space-based solar technology can provide an inexhaustible, safe, pollution free supply of energy and is a far more logical solution than petroleum or ethanol-based or even nuclear-fueled hydrogen systems. Satellites in orbit around the Earth and/or collectors on the moon�s surface can be engineered to convert the sun�s radiant energy into electricity 24 hours a day, which can be safely transmitted by microwave beams to receiving antennas on Earth.

Space solar power is not a new idea. NASA and the Department of Energy have been studying the issue for the past 30 years and have found it to be technically feasible. However, given the domination of the Bush administration by the oil industry, no research and development has been done on space solar power since 2001.

If we used space solar power to energize our nation�s highways, we could begin to restrict the use of our remaining fossil fuels to the manufacturing of synthetic materials and purposes other than energy. Ultimately, we could power the entire national economy by space solar power and other renewable sources of energy, such as surface solar and wind power systems.

Although there are substantial costs associated with the development of space solar power, it makes far more sense to spend our space exploration budget on developing an efficient and reliable power supply for the future, than upon a stupid and ineffective missile defense system. On the other hand, the development of space solar power would solve one of the last major stumbling blocks to space exploration -- reducing the cost of moving material from Earth to orbit.

With funding for the space shuttle ending in 2012 and for the space station in 2017, America must decide upon a realistic policy for space exploration, or else we will be left in the dust by other nations, such as Japan, China, and the European Union, which are rapidly developing futuristic space projects.

The first nation that captures and effectively makes use of space solar energy will dominate the world economy for generations to come and will become a much healthier and far more secure society. Will you be the visionary leader to take us there?

William John Cox is the author of You�re Not Stupid! Get the Truth: A Brief on the Bush Presidency. His political writings can be found at, and he can be contacted at

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