In his State of the Union address, President Bush expressed the United States’ dependency on oil as an “addiction,” a brave assessment that the administration and advocates for alternative energy sources hope will stimulate change. An enduring need for oil has put the United States in risky relations with oil-rich countries such as Iran, Venezuela, and Iraq and the threat of embargo has become an influential weapon of choice. Economic sanctions are refuted by these nations by threatening to cut off oil exports to selected importers. Ukrainians have already seen these effects, after facing mid-winter natural gas supply shortages imposed by Russians wanting a four-fold increase in price.
There are other reasons for alternative fuels as well. Poorer countries, such as Nepal and the Democratic Republic of Congo could experience dramatic decreases in GDP if the price of oil continues to increase. Ethiopia, a country overcome by AIDS would see almost all of $134 million aid erased by a $10 increase for a barrel of oil.
It’s no surprise to anyone that petrol-based fuels account for pollution. Tremendous environmental impacts have power plants, vehicles, and tanker spills, among others, to blame. Global warming has been widely speculated upon, and most people can agree that temperatures are getting warmer as population and consumption increase. Carbon dioxide, a prominent greenhouse gas released when burning fuels, is an inefficient and unclean bio-hazard whose harm can be reduced with the development of cleaner fuels such as ethanol or E-85.
Along with conducting business with these countries comes the worry that Americans who consume gas bought from countries in the Middle East are putting money into the hands of dangerous regimes and terrorist groups. Wealth gained from transaction of oil is attributed to only a few, and often, at the hands of citizens with little voice for the use of their countries natural resources. Dictators and regime-leaders rake in the reward for exporting oil, while the countrymen and women suffer from drought, famine, and disease without aid.
Of course, another of the leading reasons for finding alternate fuel sources is the diminishing supply of our non-renewable resources. Explosive economic and population growth in countries such as China, India, and Brazil is accounting for unprecedented competition for oil and natural gas. In 2005, Americans paid 17 percent more for energy than in the previous year, accounting for 40 percent of the rise in the consumer price index. The International Energy Agency is calling for $17 trillion in investment. But even if investment is made and more reserves are found, diminishing supply is inevitable. Competition for the last of the world’s reserves will greatly increase hostility and perhaps stall trade between countries with most to lose-and gain.
With so much dependency on the Middle East and other oil-rich hotspots, the United States and much of the rest of the world is coming face to face with economic and natural disaster. And because the United States relies so heavily on energy on a day to day basis, it is time for us to take the lead on alternative energy resources. The U.S. has the opportunity to take the lead on a global problem whose solutions could drastically change the livelihood of many, reduce greenhouse gases and the threat of global warming, and prevent a world war economic disaster on the premise of diminishing oil reserves.