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The Real Problem With Foreign Oil? Climate Change
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Memo to Senators Obama and McCain:

Last night in your debates, you missed an opportunity. You faced the question,

Would each of you give us a number, a specific number of how much you believe we can reduce our foreign oil imports during your first term?

You led your responses, very similarly, with the following statements (excerpts taken from this transcript):

McCain:

I think we can, for all intents and purposes, eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and Venezuelan oil. Canadian oil is fine.

Obama:

I think that in ten years, we can reduce our dependence so that we no longer have to import oil from the Middle East or Venezuela. I think that's about a realistic timeframe.


Senators, we think that you missed the point to address the real problem, which is not which nation the oil comes from, but rather the very fact that it is oil. Your statements do not acknowledge that fossil fuels are a finite natural resource that we will eventually run out of, and which, when burned, poison the planet.

By addressing the larger issue -- climate change -- and pushing for a United States that no longer needs fossil fuels to do its daily business, you will inherently solve the problem of sending U.S. dollars to hostile oil-producing nations. But the reverse scenario does not work. America could remove all the foreign oil from its energy supply and still be economically disadvantaged and ecologically imperiled. And weaning America off select supplies of foreign oil does little to help the rest of the world transition to a post-carbon economy.

True, both of you mentioned alternative energy later on in your answers:

Obama:

But understand, we only have three to four percent of the world's oil reserves and we use 25 percent of the world's oil, which means that we can't drill our way out of the problem.

That's why I've focused on putting resources into solar, wind, biodiesel, geothermal. These have been priorities of mine since I got to the Senate, and it is absolutely critical that we develop a high fuel efficient car that's built not in Japan and not in South Korea, but built here in the United States of America.

McCain:

So the point is with nuclear power, with wind, tide, solar, natural gas, with development of flex fuel, hybrid, clean coal technology, clean coal technology is key in the heartland of America that's hurting rather badly.

And, to be fair, moderator Bob Schieffer could have done a better job with this question. He took the topic – originally identified as "energy and climate control" – straight to the issue of "foreign oil."

By consistently addressing the problem of oil as if it is first and foremost an issue of national security, we believe that the entire discussion is misleading the public. Dependence on oil is an issue of planetary security, because continuing to yoke the systems that define our lives to a resource that has no future is the very antithesis of sustainability.

While we realize that foreign oil and its implications for security and the economy are at the forefront of American minds, we still believe that there is a crucial subject here that is being avoided by the two men competing to lead the world's most fuel-dependent, most polluting (per capita) nation on earth.

We worry that this persistent air of surreality won't clear up nearly soon enough.

Photo credit: Todd Heisler, The New York Times.

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Comments

here here! exactly the point i was yelling at the tv. they also danced around the important word: conservation. i think obama might have uttered it once, but not in any substantive sense. ultimately as we WC readers know intuitively, it's cheapest and most stabilizing to conserve -- not to buy more, spend more, consume more. the supply-side economists must be overjoyed to hear nothing of conserving, and instead further exploitation.


Posted by: leif on 16 Oct 08

And while we're talking about the candidates's positions on the environment, let's ask them if they're aware that the environment consists of more than a fossil-fuel related warming climate. How about acid rain? wetland protection? urban sprawl? grounwater contamination? stormwater runnoff? mercury contamination? Time and time again I ask campaigners for their candidate's position on these issue only to receive a blank expression in return. The only reason candidates have a position on climate change is because it's related to energy dependency which is related to national security and affects the economy.


Posted by: Paul Lockwood on 20 Oct 08



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