Energy Crisis



It never took a rocket scientist, as they say, to figure out that the world's richest oil resources are in the Middle East. My Uncle Vernon worked the oil patch his entire life. I remember him emphasizing to my father, on one occasion as early as 1958, that the United States would one day be dependent upon Middle Eastern oil unless appropriate measures were taken. As he stressed the seriousness of the situation, he pointed to the Middle East on a map illustrating the world's known oil and mineral deposits and intoned simply, "Not good."

Yesterday I recalled that conversation as I grudgingly filled the gas tank of my automobile at the cost of $4.05 per gallon. I wondered why, since my uncle who had little formal education was aware of this looming catastrophe a half century ago, United States elected officials have apparently been, or acted as if they were, oblivious to the problem.

Oh, to be sure, Washington insiders Hillary Clinton and John McCain are now each "Johnny-on-the-spot." They propose to suspend the 18-cent federal tax on gasoline during the summer driving season. How brilliantly proactive!  Barack Obama, on the other hand, criticizes their proposal for precisely what it is, a "gimmick," and favors instead the aggressive development of alternative energy sources, especially biofuels, over the course of the next decade. The next decade? Hmmm. "But what," you ask, "will happen between now and then?" It is hardly an idle question. We could well be paying $10.00 a gallon at the pump, and vast numbers of citizens could find themselves standing in bread lines.

I recently asked a financial analyst how families in our community are handling the steep increases in fuel costs. He shook his head negatively and responded as follows: "If a husband and wife with two children have a home mortgage, two car payments, a pension plan, health insurance, food costs and all the other routine living expenses, and they earn as much, let's say, as $60,000 a year, chances are that they aren't making it at all."  So much for the survival of the middle class.

As I listened to him, the rage began building in me. Why have our elected officials, I wondered, not been attending to the people's interests? What have these drones been doing for the last fifty years other than feathering their nests at our expense, seizing every photo opportunity available to them, and playing titillating games with pages, interns, and secretaries? Many of these marvelous patriots, because of their "tenured, sacrificial service," are now living in regal splendor as retirees, thanks to a pension plan that is two to three times more lavish than similarly situated executives.  No siree, bob . . . no necessary reliance upon social security benefits for these dignitaries, but would anybody care to wager how fast the problems with social security would be straightened out if such benefits were integral to their retirement plan?  Now that a hard rain is about to fall upon the country, the best that any of them can do for us is to trot out gimmicks or to advise us to tighten our belts while we wait another ten years for them to resolve the energy problem and to kick the social security can down the road. 

Many of the founders of our country read and studied the writings of John Locke, a 17th century philosopher. Thomas Jefferson regarded him as one of the three greatest men who ever lived. Locke's Second Treatise on Government is as breathtakingly relevant today as when he wrote it in 1698. The book is a testament to the fact that some things never change. About elected officials, he observed from his profound wellspring of insight that "great mistakes . . . many wrong and inconvenient laws, and all the slips of human frailty will be borne by the people, without mutiny or murmur." But eventually, he notes, after "a long train of abuses, prevarications, and artifices," a line is crossed. When this happens, the legislature is adjudged, by the very souls it was intended to serve, as "guilty of rebellion" and in "a state of war" against them.

Locke's point is a heavy one, but essentially boils down to the plain fact that the government belongs to us. It does not belong to the politicians or to the bureaucrats. No, they are to be our servants, although no one would recognize it by looking. Many of these scoundrels become, as we know, filthy rich while in office. Others are treated to "the good life" by financial interests, whose bidding they are more than happy to do.  Perpetuity in office is the goal.  Lying is a very present help in times of trouble, while platitudes and catch-phrases are the essential tools of the trade. My question, and perhaps yours, is, "When will the people exercise their authority and declare that the line has been irrevocably crossed?" 

May 31, 2008