Nero is Still Fiddling as Rome Continues to Burn

Nero is Still Fiddling as Rome Continues to Burn

© David Burton 2009



     There has been a global energy problem for at least 3 decades. Those of us over 40 recall that, in 1973, several Arab exporting nations imposed an embargo because of the Arab-Israel Yom Kippur war. This Arab oil embargo brought to the attention of the American public the fact that we no longer controlled our supply of Petroleum. We found out that we were highly dependent upon imported oil, primarily imported Arab oil. When the oil spigot from the Arab countries was turned off, we saw the cost of unrefined oil jump up alarmingly, spurring double-digit inflation and a painful recession. After a second oil shock in 1979-80, oil’s price hit a new high. In addition to the skyrocketing cost of oil and gasoline, motorists queued up in long lines at gas stations because there was a resultant shortage of fuel at any price. Today, much of America’s economic and national security is mortgaged to some of the world’s most unstable and despotic nations: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Nigeria and even Russia. This is not a desirable situation since secure energy supplies are at the heart of America’s well-being. Some one hundred years ago, Mark Requa, chief engineer of the U.S. Bureau of mines wrote: "We must either plan for a future or we must pass into a condition of commercial vassalage, in time of peace relying on some foreign country for the petroleum wherewith to lubricate the highways of commerce, in time of war at the mercy of the enemy who may . . . control the source of supply." (Ref. 1) True in 1909 as it is today in 2009.

     In 2008, oil prices soared to over $4.00 a gallon. The nation was appalled. Congress held hearings. The oil companies were scolded for the high price of their products and their executives were excoriated for the "obscene profits" of their companies.

     There was panic in the 1970's over the price and supply of petroleum. There was rage at the high price of petroleum in 2008. What have our government leaders done to solve the energy problem since then? Realistically, they have done very little. Certainly, they have failed to generate any comprehensive long term energy policy or plan for our nation. Washington continues to fiddle even as our economy and our security are burning! This nation continues to be held captive to foreign sources of gas and petroleum. There is no cohesive energy program in place, or even proposed, that addresses the problem. I have discussed the problem, its causes and the possible solutions several times. (Ref's. 2 to 7) The various causes, solutions, pro's, con's and consequences are included in therein.

     The American people and their elected officials must bite the bullet and keep our eyes on the long range (10, 20 or 50 years into the future) energy objectives and realities. To discourage the continued overdependence on foreign petroleum and to encourage energy conservation and the development of alternate energy sources, we need stably high oil and fuel prices for not just a year or two, but indefinitely. We need to make sure that energy conservation is a long-term way of life. We need to make it highly attractive to find new sources of energy and to bring to market alternative sources of energy and their associated infrastructures. We must demand that our politicians stop pandering to short term solutions that provide immediate gratification to their constituencies, but which, in the long run, place this country in much more serious trouble. We need to get our elected officials to focus on the energy problem and not solely on other pet issues such as health care reform.

     The American people and their elected officials react to immediately perceived crises and then, just as quickly, forget the problem as soon as the crises diminishes. The Obama administration has focused on health care to the exclusion of other problems. While there has been occasional lip service paid to the energy problem, there has been no concerted effort to begin to solve the long term problem. There have been many steps suggested, proposed and recommended. Few have been acted upon, and certainly not in the context of a comprehensive long-term national energy strategy. Some of these proposed steps have included:

  • Reduce speed limits to 55 MPH as was done after the Arab oil embargos of the 1970's and 1980's.
  • Effectively raise the price of gasoline to $7 a gallon and guarantee that price will be maintained, inflation adjusted, for a relatively long period of time.
  • Allow off-shore oil/gas exploration and drilling.
  • Allow oil/gas exploration and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) North Slope in Alaska.
  • Provide subsidies for solar energy development, installation and maintenance.
  • Provide subsidies for wind energy development, installation and maintenance.
  • Streamline the process for siting and building wind turbine farms.
  • Provide subsidies for geothermal energy development, installation and maintenance.
  • Eliminate all the bottlenecks that have stymied the continued development and deployment of nuclear power in the U.S.
  • Provide financial and regulatory support for updating and improving the electrical power grid distribution system in the U.S.
  • Eliminate all the bottlenecks that have been placed in the way of natural gas exploration, development, and distribution.
  • Tighten car-fuel economy standards and eliminate the exceptions to these standards.
  • Provide long term support for research, development and the start of a commercial leasing program on federal lands to hasten the development of oil shale reserves in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.
  • Streamline the process for siting and building marine LNG terminals.
  • Provide meaningful financial incentives for energy conservation and enforce penalties for failure to conserve energy.
  • Increase the use of "clean" coal (gasification, removal of pollutants, etc.).
  • Computerize and coordinate traffic signals throughout the nation.
  • Encourage/mandate the development and production of safe but lighter-weight vehicles.
  • Encourage/mandate the increased use of hybrid and/or alternate fuel burning vehicles (ethanol, propane, etc.).
  • Require that all non-essential illumination at night in buildings, on advertising signs, etc. be Turned off.
  • Subsidize mass transit and encourage or mandate its use in place of automobiles where appropriate.
  • Mandate the Replacement of incandescent lighting with fluorescent or solid state illumination.
  • Encourage as large a large segment of U.S. businesses, schools and public agencies as possible to work four 10-hour days instead of the current five 8-hour days.
  • Discourage government attempts to micromanage the energy market and pick winners and losers. We need to let the free market do that.
     American cannot continue to wait for their elected officials to get serious about developing and implement an all-inclusive energy plan. Partial solutions are not adequate. An honest energy plan cannot be developed in fits and starts. Our leaders must address the whole problem on a long term basis. Washington must stop fiddling and must put out the fires now!

  1. Aaronsohn's Maps, Patrica Goldstone, Harcourt, Inc., First edition, Pg. 59, 2007.
  2. Solving America's Energy Dilemma, David Burton,, 15 November 2005.
  3. America Needs 4 to 7 Dollar-a-Gallon Gasoline, David Burton,, 2 May 2007.
  4. They've got us over a barrel, David Burton,, 2 May 2007.
  5. We Americans Can be Our own Worst Enemies, David Burton,, 27 February 2008.
  6. A few simple baby steps to begin solving the "energy crisis", David Burton,, 30 June 2008.
  7. Do We and Our Elected Officials Have the Will?, David Burton,, 16 October 2008.


  18 December 2009 {Article 66; Govt_16}    
Go back to the top of the page