Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Price of Complacency

I love Spring, the new budding lush greenness all around, the sunshine as seen through the newness of the leaves and the fact that I will not have to pay $500.00 to fill my oil tank until late Fall. Ah Spring; when a young man’s thoughts turn to words that were once held in disgust – alternative fuels, and how much he wishes he could have utilized them during the past winter. My family really felt the squeeze this past winter. I had hoped that the future would resemble the dreams of the futurists. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Welcome to life in the twenty-first century and a future that remains dependent on oil.

Why does it have to be this way? The signs were there and nothing was done. Nothing. I’ve lived long enough to remember the energy crisis of the seventies. OPEC tightened the screws and gas prices soared to the unheard price of 76 cents a gallon. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. Dependency on foreign oil brought us to our knees and introduced the concept of Odd – Even days to a public and society that ran on fossil fuels. Time passed, deals were struck and OPEC dropped the price of oil once more. Prices dropped and instead of learning from such an experience we ignored it and went back to our lives, driving into a future paved with cheap oil. Why should we consider the use of alternative energies? Oil’s cheap; what are you, some kind of tree hugger?

It’s time I faced the facts – I just may be; although not for all of the usual reasons. I live work and play in South Jersey and today, 4/18/06; I paid $2.69 for a gallon of gas. $2.69! I’m sure that there are a million reasons why but for me it comes down to complacency. Big oil companies do not want to retool their shops, American carmakers? Same thing. The public? We follow; we do as we are told. We resist any type of change and hang on securely to our status quo. It is this stubborn dedication to the norm, to our own comfort, that is really killing us. Our greed betrays us, yet again. One cannot mention greed and leave out the oil companies. It is not just a natural resource that is being exploited; it’s also the public – you and I, each and every time we put a twenty into a gas tank or $250.00 into a heating oil tank to be half filled. Now, imagine if you will, a country run on clean, renewable energies not dependent on foreign oil or the interests of big, corporate institutions that care absolutely nothing about anything but the bottom line. Perhaps it is this that ticks me off the most; the ‘what ifs’ – the future that could have been if we didn’t accept things the way they were.

History has taught us nothing.

So who will fund the revolution? I bet on Japan and China. Did you know that 40% of Chinese high school students want to become engineers and that less than 4% of American high school students want to go into the field? Man, it’s a great thing that we have our MTV. Our short attention spans (mine included) don’t allow us to focus on too many things at once. It is systemic.

I don’t mean to sound too negative there are signs that things could change. I love any vehicle that can get 50 miles to the gallon and recently, while driving into Atlantic City from the Atlantic City Express way I glimpsed the future. Off on the back bay sits a new wind farm! I found the sight of it amazing; all hope is not lost. Can you imagine if we had been using such resources since the seventies? Our infrastructure could have been rebuilt to use wind power, solar power, tidal power, geothermal power and hydropower. It would be a different world. Yes there would have been initial problems and attitude adjusting, but all of that would be over now. How many stable, long term jobs could have been created by perfecting and utilizing these emerging and completely renewable technologies? Imagine how it could have been if we refused the status quo and threw off the yoke of oppression that we so gladly have harnessed ourselves to. A world without the dependency on oil; it didn’t have to remain science fiction – we just liked it that way.

Ah, the price of complacency. I don’t believe we can afford it anymore. The wind farm and its five spinning turbines give me hope. Hope that all is not lost, that the world we hand our children is a better place, and that the future really does belong “to those who believe in the power of their dreams.”

Now there is a status quo that I could get behind.

No comments: