Our dependence on foreign oil now hurts more than ever. It's far harder to to stop Tehran from getting the bomb when we need Iran's oil. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, meanwhile, is using our oil money to turn a continent against us. And, of course, oil money funds terrorism, too.
The problem's not news — nor are the proposed solutions. The left has long supported alternative fuel sources, conservation, non-polluting natural gas and ethanol fuels — while the right has backed nuclear power, off-shore and Alaskan oil drilling and greater use of coal.
And each side blocked the other's answers.
In a gentler time, it was normal for each polarized camp to reject the solutions of the other. But the stakes have risen to a point where the goal, energy independence, must outweigh these vetos — on both sides. We must say "yes" to any step that can help us rid ourselves of this debilitating dependence on our worst enemies.
Each side in this ideological war needs to put down its weapons and embrace its own solutions and those offered by the other side. The partisan division over solutions to energy also ignores how technology has advanced since the battle lines were drawn.
Nuclear power is a great example. In the 1970s, we were sold a bill of goods by movies like "The China Syndrome," brought to us by Jane Fonda, that atomic energy was unsafe. Reinforced by Chernobyl in the Soviet Union and the far less destructive Three Mile Island mishap in Pennsylvania, we sharply reined in nuclear energy.
Meanwhile, France plunged ahead with it: Half of that nation's electricity comes from nuclear power plants — without incident or danger. We need to restart the nuclear program.
The right, for its part, has got to stop writing off wind and solar power as silly, and embrace their full use. We should massively and rapidly expand our production of ethanol- and alcohol-based fuels; the auto industry needs to rev up production of the e-85 cars that use these fuels, and only fill their tanks to 15 percent with gasoline.
Two million cars now on the road — largely in the Midwest — run on E-85 fuel. With more such vehicles, and greater fuel-production capacity, a massive conversion can occur.
The left, meanwhile, has got to make its peace with coal. New techniques for capturing carbon dioxide and burying it in the ground so as not to exacerbate climate change have overtaken the political opposition to coal.
And then we come to hydrogen, the ultimate replacement for a carbon-based fuels. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger has converted 25 gas stations to carry hydrogen and will add another 30 by year's end. The hydrogen wll be available on every part of California's interstate system.
The energy required to make hydrogen fuel is dropping with new technology; and it may even be possible to extract hydrogen as part of the processing of agricultural waste and by using landfill gases.
And finally, yes, we do need to drill in the Arctic and off shore. I had long opposed this. But one look at how Iran uses its oil to paralyze our anti-proliferation efforts, or at how Venezuela's Chavez uses his oil and our money to foment anti-U.S. sentiment in Latin America, convinces me that we need to drill where we can. The Bush administration has, thankfully, released 2 million acres for off-shore oil drilling, with no site closer than one hundred miles to Florida beaches.
It is only by a mosaic of steps, some liberal and some conservative that we can end America's oil addiction. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia famously said, "There is no Democratic or Republican way to clean the streets." Let's apply thatthinking to energy independence.