Despite the fact that an “open forum” was planned for individuals to “speak out” about President Bush’s State of the Union address days before it actually happened, we shouldn’t always be so quick to attack all things Bush. For in his State of the Union address, delivered Tuesday evening, President Bush brought up one initiative that was as welcome as it was downright surprising: He spoke of getting off our addiction to foreign oil. Transitioning to sources of energy other than foreign ones should be one of the pillars of foreign policy for the next century.
More than one year ago, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman wrote that Sept. 11 had generated the public willingness to make powerful changes relating to our energy use. “The most obvious bold national project that Mr. Bush could launch now – his version of the race to the moon,” he wrote, “would be a program for energy independence …the Texas oilman weaning America off of its independence on Middle East oil. That would be a political coup!”
Well, it seems the Texas oilman may have begun the coup last Tuesday night. Bush expressed his priority for promoting energy independence, efficiency and development of new technologies. This way, as he colorfully put it, “the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free.” Just as important, weaning ourselves from dependency on other countries is a key step in developing energy security, the situation where our supply of energy is protected against threats of various sorts. This, naturally, has become an increasingly urgent matter since Sept.11.
Being addicted to oil from Arab autocracies, like we are now, is terrible policy. It gives such states influence that they shouldn’t have, given our vastly different interests and lack of shared values. Petrodollars buttress failed governments, benefiting an elite that makes sparse efforts at development. The resentment of Middle Easterners at useless and despotic governments who don’t provide jobs and education is a source of instability in the region. Our support for them breeds anger toward us, a constant theme in Osama bin Laden’s rants. And we know that at least some of the money that goes into oil coffers ends up in terrorist bank accounts.
The environment is another reason for a Manhattan project of energy security. I don’t have to remind you of the effects of big oil on ecosystems. Renewable resources like wind, solar or geothermal energy could be developed into sustainable energy alternatives. Non-polluting cars already exist, and further research and development would make them more efficient and affordable. In his Freedom Fuel initiative, Bush proposed $1.2 billion in research funding and infrastructure in the hopes of making hydrogen-powered automobiles ubiquitous. Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey said hydrogen fuel cells or renewable energy could also save us about $1 trillion.
Sounds like a good investment to me.
It is up to us to hold President Bush to his word, and no effort should be spared in pushing this issue. It is truly rare to find such an important cause that we can all agree upon, one that combines national security, the environment, ending support for autocracy and a better future for Middle Eastern peoples. Let’s end the addiction.
Joey Tartakovsky is a junior global studies and Slavic studies major.