07/09/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Time Is Money -- About Half a Million Dollars a Minute

I know you think that the worst is over. Here and there we're starting to get bits and pieces of good news about the U.S. economy. Some are even saying that we're beginning to climb out of this recession. I certainly hope that's true. But one thing's for sure: we've still got our work cut out for us, and the May numbers from the Energy Information Administration prove it.

Last month, we imported 366 million barrels of oil at a total cost of $21.6 billion. Every minute in May we spent $484,087 to pay for our addiction to foreign oil. Think of it this way. By the time you finish reading this post, a couple million dollars will be gone, out of our economy for good. They won't fuel American jobs. They won't pay American taxes. And they definitely won't help us create the infrastructure or the building blocks so vital to the future our country.

OK. I've told you what those billions won't be doing for us. Now I'm going to tell you what those billions will be doing. Each month we cut a fat check to Venezuela's state-owned oil company. We import tens of millions of barrels of their crude. So not only are we propping up Hugo Chavez, but we're giving him the spending money he needs to go out and try his best to give our country a black eye whenever he sees fit.

A much bigger check goes to the Middle East, countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, and Oman. You know where some of those billions end up? Funding Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Call it what you want: protection money, payoffs, whatever. But we pay for both sides of the War on Terrorism, and we've been doing so for decades. That's got to be one of the stupidest things I've ever heard of.

Back to May's numbers. If you're like me and think $21 billion is way too much to be sending overseas, then brace yourself. So far in 2009, the price of gasoline has gone up 88 cents a gallon at the pump, and 48 cents of that jump took place just last month. OPEC has said it would be comfortable when the price of oil back to $75 a barrel, and I guarantee you they wouldn't try to bring it down if it went higher.

So what should we do?

At this very moment we have a window of opportunity that must not be ignored. America can end its addiction to foreign oil, but we have to get moving. Around the world there are roughly 10 million vehicles running on natural gas. Yet only 150,000 NG vehicles can be found here in the U.S. So the country with the most number of cars on earth has the least number of natural gas vehicles? On top of that, America's natural gas reserves are enormous. By some estimates they could last a century. The fact that we aren't making better use of our domestic natural gas makes about as much sense as the way we spend half a trillion dollars each year importing foreign oil.

President Obama recently announced new emissions targets for cars and light trucks. Natural gas produces virtually no particulate emissions and, because of its chemical structure, only a fraction of the carbon dioxide emissions that diesel and gasoline produce. A major initiative to move America's heavy trucks to natural gas would save us billions annually by reducing our need for imported oil. We all know that America's auto industry desperately needs a lifeline. Building passenger cars and light trucks that run on natural gas would help retain existing jobs and create new ones.

All of us want to end this recession as quickly as possible. And we have many of the answers right here right now. What we don't have is any time to waste. Because the longer we procrastinate, the sooner another million, and then another billion, leave this country for good.