Thursday, September 01, 2005

Turning Points

Life allows us to make changes from time to time and, fortunately, the decision to change in most of those circumstances is voluntary. Unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina has probably imposed an involuntary turning point upon our country that will be felt for many years to come.

We've gotten used to cheap gas, long vacations with hotels and restaurants alongside massive Interstates. Food and supplies have been trucked all over the country so that we could have produce out of season and inexpensive products from all over the world in our malls. We've enjoyed driving big SUVs and cars to allow us to stretch out in comfort so we wouldn't have to be cramped while making a trip to the local grocery store for that forgotten item for supper. We've had it good for fifty years or so.

However, our long summer of national indulgence may be turning into the fall of fuel shortages, power outages and then into the winter of discontent. We've probably forgotton how to live with less and to make do with what we have; some of our older generation remembers rationing for food, gas and other essentials during World War II and us younger types may have to get familiar with their experiences from then in the here and now.

Katrina will force this country to start making some hard decisions on the governmental, business and personal levels. Will our government, at all levels, begin to make decisions that will reduce our national dependance on oil? Will businesses, particularly the auto industry, quit telling us in advertising that we MUST have the biggest and most energy-hogging appliances and cars? Will we as individuals cut back on our driving and our consumption of increasingly scarce resources? Or will we listen to naysayers like Rush Limbaugh, who on the radio the other day said that there's PLENTY of oil, that higher gas prices are the fault solely of the futures marketeers and that we've got nothing to worry about?

Our county is at a turning point. We don't have the option anymore to think about making changes; the changes are being forced upon us. Had we started making changes on the national level back in the early 1970s during the Arab Oil Embargo, things might have been very different in the post-Katrina world. The loss of oil from the Gulf wells and refineries might have simply been a blip in the national scene as we dealt with the massive human tragedy on the coast. Cars running on non-petroleum fuels might have been developed and in garages by now, fuel-cell technologies might be providing our local energy needs along with solar, wind, biomass fuels and other renewable resources. But no, we were too short-sighted, too addicted to our lifestyles, too afraid of what it would cost to switch over and as a result, here we are in the opening decade of the 21st-century, going through the withdrawals of going cold turkey from oil because of a natural disaster.

I hate to be a pessimist, but we're going to have to get used to things being in short supply and being more expensive. I just wish we had the leadership in this country to acknowledge the current reality and that they were willing to push our economy and our attitudes in the right direction. Unfortunately, we'll probably get more "We're the best county on earth", "We're fighting a war on terrorism, so that's where the money is going" and "There's plenty of oil to go around" instead.

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