The Fourth Estate
“If I Were the Leader of the Free World”Monday, May 23, 2011 By Andrew McCaffery
If I were leader of the free world, the first issue I would address would be the United States’ modern fuel crisis; specifically, concerning the world’s growing energy demands and the improbability that gasoline will be able to supply for these needs. In order to understand this escalating issue, we must first refer back to an earlier energy crisis. Up until the 20th century, lumber had been a large source of energy. Unfortunately, this led to major deforestation of the United States: estimates show that, in 1900, only 20 per cent of our original forests were remaining. This problem inspired President Theodore Roosevelt to initiate a wave of conservatory acts, specifically through the creation of many National Parks, such as Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. In our modern age, we are facing a very similar crisis: a 2007 BP Statistical Review of World Energy projected that the world "has enough proven reserves to provide for 40 years of consumption at current rates," or until the year 2047. While this might seem distant in the future, the reality is that 40 years is not long at all. Also, one must notice that this study provides for 40 years of consumption at current rates; however, it is clear that rates will not stay the same, since the world’s population will continue to grow. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of the Census has projected that the world’s population will be over 9 billion in 2047. Today, with over 6 billion people, we consume approximately 85-90 million barrels of oil per day. Proportionally, that means we would consume approximately 130-135 million barrels per day in 2047. Our constant oil excavation is also dangerous to the environment. With over 250 million passenger vehicles in circulation in the United States today, we are constantly pumping toxic fumes and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Just take a moment to imagine the ecological devastation that would occur with 9 billion global inhabitants. We would release disgusting amounts of carbon dioxide and other toxins, which not only cause ozone deterioration, but also countless health problems, such as asthma… Also, because a lot of the world’s oil resources are located in troubled areas around the globe -- such as the Middle East and certain parts of Africa -- the world’s demand for oil proposes harms to society. For example, oil interests in the Niger River Delta have caused problems between African-locals and oil giants since the mid-20th-century. Specifically, there have been violent rebel uprisings in Niger, led by groups like the NDPVF (the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force), against the presence of oil companies such as Shell and Exxon-Mobile. With these facts in mind, should we continue to extract the remaining oil from our planet’s sediments? Should we continue to damage the environment? Should we continue to trouble the inhabitants of oil rich areas? No! Instead, we should research, fund, and ultimately switch, to a modern, more eco-friendly alternative fuel source... Some possibilities are: biofuel, solar power, wind power, or natural gas. For example, solar and wind power -- unlike oil -- are sustainable practices: there will still be sunlight and still be wind long past our lifetimes, whereas oil reserves will dry up. Also, there is little danger in solar and wind power in comparison to oil power… specifically, with oil rigs. In last year’s BP oil spill, eleven lives were claimed by the explosion of the Horizon Deepwater Rig, and the Gulf of Mexico was terribly polluted. In contrast, solar panels are not life-threatening, nor do they pollute the environment... The same goes for wind turbines. Our nation and our world cannot afford to continue using gasoline and oil products as our primary fuel source, for three reasons. One, it is too expensive -- considering our over-14 trillion dollar deficit. Two, oil drilling is causing havoc around the globe, such as with the BP oil spill and with the conflict in the Niger River delta… and three, our planet’s oil supplies will run out, and very fast. In order to ensure that our nation and our world has a dependable energy source for generations to come, we muststart to make the shift to an alternative fuel source, like solar power or wind power or both. The clock’s ticking.