Here we are again, talking about the outrageous cost of diesel, gasoline and oil. Here we are again, talking about how the growing demand for oil worldwide — especially from China — is making oil ever more costly on the global market. And here we are again, talking about how much oil we're importing — 54% of the 20-million barrels of oil America burns every day, projected to grow to 64% by 2010 — and how much of it comes from places in the world that aren't exactly friendly with us.
The frightening reality is that our transportation infrastructure cannot exist without the gasoline and diesel fuel derived from oil. It relies on oil for 97% of its fuel needs, 70% of all the oil we burn every day in this country. With oil prices now over $60 a barrel, the outlook is even grimmer. Trucking paid over $10 billion more for diesel in 2004 and is on track to shell out another $15 billion on top of that this year alone if diesel prices stay high.
“We're like the frog in the pot of water on the stove now,” Richard Kolodzeij, president of the Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, told me recently. “The heat keeps getting turned up…in terms of oil prices, yet we stay in the pot and risk getting boiled to death.”
He said we've reached a real crisis point now, where the dependence of the U.S. on foreign oil is just beginning to distort foreign policy, military policy, and the nation's economy as whole. “Paying $60 a barrel for oil is just a way station,” Kolodzeij warned. “Look at China: they are now importing more and more oil, yet they have a vehicle-per-1,000-people ratio that we in the U.S. had back during World War I. And their demand for oil is only going to increase.”
Even members of the automotive industry are starting to get concerned in a big way, to the point of backing “shock therapy” as a way to jump-start non-oil-based transportation solutions.
“It is time for energy independence; it's time for the Hydrogen Project,” said Timothy Leuliette, president & CEO of Metaldyne, a manufacturer of forged automotive components, in speech last winter. “The $1.2-billion Hydrogen Fuel Initiative that President Bush announced in his State of the Union two years ago aims for fuel cell technology to reach the automotive consumer by 2020, and for hydrogen technology to significantly reduce this country's oil usage by 2040. That timetable is ten times longer than the Manhattan project [that produced the first atomic bomb] and four times longer that putting a man on the moon.
“I am absolutely convinced that we don't have that kind of time; we don't have anywhere near that kind of time,” he said. “We are talking about eliminating the leverage that radical Islam has over this country. We are talking about disconnecting this nation from the oil thirst the new China will impart upon the world's producers.
“It's an issue that with one senseless act, one government collapse, one hiccup in a global distribution system, will become our worst nightmare,” he said.
“Currently, [our] country has economic and foreign policies that are predicated on the availability of an uninterrupted supply of low-cost oil for decades to come. We are betting our careers, our businesses and our families' financial health [on this],” Leuliette warned.
In the end, something has to change, for the world needs energy just as people need oxygen to breathe, he said. “To deny the essential economic, geopolitical and national security role oil plays in our society is to deny reality,” Leuliette said Harsh words, but maybe we need a good slap on the head in order to wake up and really start looking for ways to break our oil habit before it breaks us.