America's Greatest Source Of Renewable Energy: Whine Power?

07/26/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011


Lou Dobbs has got his presumably made-in-the-USA knickers in a twist over Al Gore's "truly absurd proposal" for Americans to ditch the fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy in the next decade. Dobbs, inexplicably deluded that stepped-up domestic drilling would offer some kind of immediate relief from high gas prices, is furious at the folks who oppose lifting the offshore ban:

"There is an environmental orthodoxy in this country that is losing its grip; it's time now for Al Gore and his left wing orthodox friends in Congress such as Senator Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to start lifting, trying to ease the pain and the burden of working men and women and their families in this country, this is not some abstract discussion about environmental issues or conservation..."

So I guess I'd be going off on an abstract tangent, here, to note that while drilling in ANWR or offshore won't make a dime of difference to our current energy crisis, there's something Americans could do to save 30 cents a gallon now, starting today. According to Thursday's New York Times, the Energy Department has determined that "fuel efficiency deteriorates radically at speeds above 60 miles per hour. Every 5 miles over that threshold is estimated to cost drivers...essentially an additional 30 cents per gallon in fuel costs."

So, the fastest way to "ease the pain and the burden" would be to simply slow down. But many Americans vehemently reject the very notion, regardless of the potential savings:

...slowing down from 65 or 70 miles per hour to 55 or 60 might seem a no-brainer -- free money! -- for drivers reeling from high gas prices. But though the rational brain might say yes, the reptile brain, the metabolic modern brain, the highway-driver brain, seems to say, let's look for savings another way.

...maybe Phil Gramm wasn't entirely wrong. Maybe we are happier whining about problems rather than coming up with solutions that entail any sort of inconvenience.

Why ease up on the gas pedal when we could wring every last drop of oil out of our soil and seas instead? Three-quarters of Americans reportedly share Dobb's support for offshore drilling despite the fact that it would do little or nothing -- even in the long term -- to offset rising fuel costs, as the New York Times noted recently:

In any event, added drilling is unlikely to generate sharply lower prices. A recent study by the federal government's Energy Information Administration estimated that under the best-case scenario opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would reduce prices by $1.44 a barrel by 2027. Drilling in broader swaths off the continental United States wouldn't affect prices until 2030.

Did you get that? The best case scenario in ANWR would lower prices by $1.44 a barrel in, like, two decades. And, as Senator Diane Feinstein noted in Thursday's Los Angeles Times, promoting offshore drilling as any kind of meaningful solution to our energy crisis is a total sham, too.

We're so screwed that there's no way we can drill ourselves out of this mess. What will it take for people to accept the fact that the era of livin' large is over? The signs are everywhere, from Wal-Mart's procuring its produce more locally to cut fuel costs to pilots accusing U.S. Airways of sending them up with an insufficient fuel supply in a desperate bid to lighten their load.

And yet, as angry and frustrated as folks are with the high cost of gas, they're apparently not ready to do something so drastic as conserve by reducing their speed, which puts them right in step with our President, who wouldn't dream of asking them to. That, he insisted at a press conference the other day, would be "presumptuous...They're smart enough to figure out whether they're going to drive less or not."

But aren't these the same people who are too slow-witted to stop driving so fast? And what about the millions of Americans who haven't got the option of scaling back on their driving because we've never bothered to invest in the infrastructure to support alternative forms of transportation like mass transit, biking, and walking? We haven't committed serious resources to developing renewable sources of energy, either, and all because we've been too busy bowing at the altar of the automobile.

Is Gore's admittedly ambitious challenge "truly absurd," as Dobbs huffed? What's truly absurd is the idea that anyone would look to a former Texas oilman to do anything other than shill for the drillers.