- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Terence P. Jeffrey argues that the biggest problem facing our nation isn’t Afghanistan or the recession but rather our enormous unfunded liabilities (“All is not well,” e-edition, Opinion, Saturday). He makes a strong case, and they are without doubt a huge problem.

However, I believe peak oil is our largest problem. America’s oil production peaked 40 years ago. World oil production stopped growing in 2005; since then, the price has doubled and doubled again. High oil prices are partly responsible for our current recession - by sending billions of dollars out of our economy and by pushing some homeowners to skip mortgage payments to fill their tanks. This helped pop the real estate bubble, which in turn exposed the banking Ponzi schemes and swindles. The price of oil collapsed along with the economy, but rising prices will suffocate any recovery. Many oil experts think we are already past the peak of global oil production and face terminal decline.

We must leave oil before it leaves us. Our transportation and agriculture are extremely dependent on oil. We can’t afford to be distracted by the “drill here, drill now” silliness. For one thing, we don’t have that much oil left. Becoming increasingly dependent on ever-lower-quality oil resources can’t be the long-term answer. We would be better advised to keep oil for essential uses later rather than support sprawl and gas-guzzlers now. We need to reduce our demand, work toward bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly communities, rebuild our passenger rail network and greatly increase the mileage of our auto fleet.

We could argue whether the problem of unfunded liabilities or peak oil is bigger, but the truth is that we must face both problems at once. I believe we face a predicament rather than a problem. Problems have solutions. Predicaments are problems that must be dealt with continually. We must start dealing with them now.



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