08/27/2007 07:46 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Iowa State Fair, America's Energy Future: Better Over a Bushel Than Over a Barrel

Earlier this August, while Iowa was overrun with presidential hopefuls, I had occasion to visit Iowa's wonderful state fair, free to wander without any political obligos nor agenda. The fair was a wonderful experience, vesting each visitor with a sense of the best of Americana. What impressed me enormously was the enthusiasm, confidence and pride so palpably apparent among Iowans in their emerging role as major players in the nation's energy agenda. It was a theme that permeated the fair, a sense that the heartland of America would once again guide its destiny. It was exciting to experience a corner of this nation, once more so confident about its future.

Incumbent with the important role Iowa will be playing in renewable energy, its responsibility toward helping forge a broad-based national energy policy is not inconsequential, especially in that here is a constituency not wedded to oil interests. And particularly so, given the contribution Iowans will be making toward the nation's supply of alternative fuels.

It is on the demand side of the equation where national leadership is lacking. Certainly one of the most effective and immediate ways to break our "oil addiction" is to legislate a cap on the nation's gasoline consumption and to fairly distribute the available gasoline through a rationing or a voucher distribution program (see post "Capping America's Gasoline Consumption Through a Manageable 'Eco-Fuels Program" - 01.08.07). In spite of its many attributes given the manifold dynamic of our looming energy crisis, one can fairly ask who among the myriad of presidential hopefuls jousting through Iowa these past weeks even uttered, let alone permitted, the words "gasoline rationing" to pass their lips. Such is its perception by mainstream politicians and much of the media as being unthinkable policy, and politically anathema. Yet times, they are a-changing! America's public may be well ahead of our politicians in comprehending that a sea change in direction is now imperative.

Consider the benefits of a gas rationing or voucher distribution program:

• Reduce our CO2 emissions in a truly significant way in that the cap would be applied to petroleum-based carbon polluting gasoline, while consumption of non- or minimally-polluting fuels such as ethanol, biofuels, biomass, plug-in electric, hydrogen would be open-ended and priced to market
• Enhance our national security and reduce our dependence on foreign suppliers
• Pressure the price of oil (the core reason the oil industry is so against the concept) with all its positive national security and economic implications
• Bring about a renewal of our automobile industry by encouraging demand for flex fuel, hybrid, plug-in vehicles. We have over 230 million cars on the road of which only six million have flex fuel capability (government programs to help Americans make the changeover need be codified)
• Result in a boom to our farm belt whereby the billions we are sending to malign foreign regimes would now stay at home
• Create new jobs, as our economy is forced to focus on clean renewable energy sources, be it biofuel, biomass, wind, geothermal, nuclear, solar power, along with a wave of new and imaginative technological and agricultural innovations
• The economic benefits from gearing up and developing a national distribution system permitting access to biofuels and plug-in facilities throughout the land. We have 160,000 filling stations and only 1,002 with ethanol/biofuel capability
• Renewed interest and investment in our mass transportation system, especially our passenger rail service
• Becoming once again a nation respected for its moral authority, in that we, the world's most gluttonous oil consumer, will have freely assumed the mantle of conservation leadership

Oil rationing during WWII brought a shared sense of mission, sacrifice and dignity to the home front. Neither Iowans, nor the rest of America, fought and won that war to now lose our future to the unfettered consumption of fossil fuels. It is no longer tenable to simply give lip service solutions to the existential dangers of climate change threatening the only planet we have. The time for procrastination is past.

Given Iowa's stake in our energy future, given their independence from oil industry interests and much of its influence, perhaps now is time for Iowans to show the way toward bringing about real change. If indeed curtailing gasoline demand through gas rationing has traction, then let Iowa take the lead in bringing this important issue to the national table. Better over a bushel than over a barrel!

(Please note that with my post "The Energy Solution That Dares Not Speak Its Name", 07.17.07, some of the issues of this post were touched upon, but not with the same specificity. Therefore please excuse the overlap. Will not blog on this issue for at least a week.)