By Brigitte L. Nacos
In his latest column in today’s New York Times, Thomas Friedman addresses once again our dependency on foreign oil and the “need to do everything possible to develop alternatives…” I couldn’t agree more. This country’s dependency on oil imports and the leading petroleum exporters in the Middle East and elsewhere has influenced important aspects of U.S.foreign policy for a long time and, more recently, the so-called war on terror as well. Senator McCain was right, when he recently admitted—albeit inadvertently, what others said before—that oil was at the root of the Iraq invasion. Our leaders’ refusal to work towards independence from oil and invest in alternative energy sources is closely related to their ties to “big oil” authoritarian governments and to oil corporations—not only since George W. Bush and Dick Cheney moved into the White House. The current debate on the pro and con of a summer moratorium on the federal gasoline tax avoids once again a public debate about the larger problem, namely, to make the development of renewable energy sources one of this country’s top priorities.
For years, Tom Friedman and some of his colleagues have written and spoken in favor of changing our energy policies. But even the most urgent appeals were not heeded by our leaders. During the current campaign, the news media could have played a crucial role in elevating energy independence and related environmental protection to one of the major policy topics and forced candidates to spell out their positions in great detail. Instead, air time, column inches, and blogosphere posts have been devoted to superficial coverage of this important topic and irrelevant campaign incidentals. So far, the golden opportunity to fully inform and educate the electorate and force the candidates’ hands on putting energy high onto their agendas was missed by the media. And few seem to care—in spite of the rising price for gasoline.
I am convinced that nothing will change unless we, the
people, take the lead. Most of us and perhaps all of us can make small and by
now well-known but not yet widely embraced changes in our daily lives to save
energy. If millions of car-drivers would embrace a “drive less this summer” habit,
this would impact our gasoline consumption measurably. If millions would at
least some of the time use public transportation instead of their own cars,
this would decrease gasoline consumption as well.
But more is needed, namely, a from-below movement for energy independence through clean and renewable alternative energy sources. The Internet is an ideal vehicle to start such a movement that would depend on the interest and enthusiasm of the young generation. One of my students wrote a term paper this spring on the “One Million Voices” demonstrations against the FARC in Colombia that began with an initiative on the social network site Facebook.
Why not try to initiate and organize along the same lines to create a movement for clean and renewable energy to free us from our dependence from petro-exporters and at the same time protects our environment?
I am hoping that a reader of this blog thinks along the same lines and takes the lead on this.