Too Precious to Burn

America’s energy policy—for a couple decades—has headed against the long-term good of the country.

The key concept of that statement being one’s definition of “long term.” Instead of ruinously fracturing our land, pumping oil like crazy and turning it into heat and noise, we should be letting the Middle East oil moguls pump their oil. Once they’re out of cheap oil we won’t have to worry about them anymore. In fact, they’ll have the world habituated to expensive oil, which we could gladly supply.

Why don’t we do that? Because oil drillers, producers and refiners—not to mention the speculators and consumers—all chase short-term profits. They don’t think long term; they can’t. They have bills to pay … now. They have “needs” to fill … now.

The only people who can change our approach are the people who own the oil rights. (Forget the government. We haven’t had an energy policy worthy of the name in my lifetime.) But none of them are willing to let their grandchildren reap the benefits of the oil they didn’t create. They, too, want to sell it and spend the money now.

So America will miss the opportunity to dominate the world’s economy in the second half of this century because we will have wasted most of our oil this half.

Forty plus years ago the Shah of Iran said oil was too precious to burn. In another forty years we will have discovered even more uses for that nonrenewable liquid gold. But what we do today determines whether there will be oil for our grandchildren.

Enlightened self-interest is a fairy tale.