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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Energy independence: The time is now

    “”Yesterday … the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world.””

    Those were the translated words of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as he addressed the United Nations General Assembly last week in New York. Chavez, the “”everyday thug”” who has of late been the recipient of bear hugs from the likes of Danny Glover and Cindy Sheehan, was fortunately rebuked by both Republicans and Democrats who saw his repudiation of the American president as an affront to the dignity of the American people who twice voted him into office. New York Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel opined, “”George Bush is the president of the United States and represents the entire country. Any demeaning public attack against him is viewed … as an attack on all of us.””

    Though somewhat deranged, Chavez is one of a number of world leaders who, despite a violently anti-Western stance, holds a dangerous amount of clout in the world geopolitical arena. Like Chavez, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi are slightly unhinged leaders who hold an inordinate amount of power primarily because of the oil wealth of their respective nations.

    Fortunately, the obvious has not been lost on our politicians – we as a nation are held hostage to oil despots, and we must do something about it. Sound bites calling for “”energy independence”” have come from both sides of the political spectrum, and such action is needed.

    While alternative fuels may someday be of help in reducing our energy dependence, most are unfortunately years away from any kind of feasibility in mass markets. E85 Ethanol is the most appealing biofuel today, yet it hasn’t reached widespread use because of its shortcomings: Cornell University professor David Pimentel estimates that it takes roughly 70 percent more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than that gallon is actually capable of producing. How can we expect producers to sell such an inferior product?

    Until a more cost-effective alternative fuel source comes around, the answer to our energy dilemma lies in simply increasing domestic crude oil production.

    Despite staunch opposition from certain political figures, increasing the amount of American-made oil we produce – namely by opening the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to production – is our most viable option at this moment.

    According to Interior Department estimates, the refuge contains more than 10 billion barrels of oil. In addition to the thousands of jobs that would be brought to Alaska as the result of opening up the refuge for drilling, those billions of gallons would enable us to greatly reduce our dependence on foreign energy. So why isn’t this happening?

    Many environmentalists mistake ANWR for a Yellowstone-like paradise, and understandably so. My own mental image of Alaska wouldn’t have been much diffent. The only problem is that I’ve never actually been to Alaska, and obviously neither have most ANWR drilling opponents.

    The reality is that ANWR is located on the northernmost edge of our northernmost state – meaning that the area is little more than a vast arctic plain for much of the year. Considering that only about 1 percent of the refuge’s total area is even up for drilling debate, oil drilling would pose almost no threat to the area’s few species of wildlife.

    Don’t believe me? Ask the Alaskans themselves: More than 78 percent of ANWR residents polled in 2000 support opening the refuge to drilling, perhaps realizing that the benefits of such an action would far exceed any perceived costs.

    We are constantly told that creating energy independence is the best way to fight terror; by ceasing to contribute to the economies of anti-American extremist nations such as Iran or Libya, we will effectively be undermining the kind of hate-mongering those regimes are trying to proliferate. Why, then, do we as a nation limit our ability to achieve such independence?

    Hugo Chavez’s comments at the U.N. were not unlike those of a spoiled child. The unfortunate truth is that he knows we as a nation are too dependent on his nation’s oil, and there is little we can do the next time that he sees fit to call our president “”the devil himself.”” Make America more energy independent by opening up ANWR and our other oil reserves, and see just how Chavez reacts. The American president/Satan incarnate comparisons will stop, we will continue to see lower gas prices and, oh yeah, there’s that whole national security thing.

    David Francis is a pre-business sophomore. He can be reached at

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