The following is a guest post by Sierra Club (Virginia chapter) Assistant Director J.R. Tolbert
In recent weeks turmoil in the Middle East has led to a spike in gasoline prices. This spike in gasoline prices has led to a corresponding increase in the price of food. As prices rise the United States is faced with yet another fork in the road moment.
We know that proponents of the fossil fuel industry will reuse the rallying cry of, "Drill Baby Drill." First, we must address the myth that more drilling will solve this problem.
By increasing domestic production of oil we would only be adding a very small amount of oil into the global marketplace. Once America's oil goes onto the global marketplace it is just as likely to feed China's growing oil addiction as it is that of the United States. Furthermore, there is not enough oil from America to make a dent large enough to truly bring down gasoline prices. Most analysts agree that if the United States exploited the oil we have offshore that it would only decrease gasoline prices by about .02 cents, and that doesn't take effect for at least a decade.
So, what are we to do as a country? How are we supposed to counter higher oil prices and protect our slow economic rebound?
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. America has had numerous opportunities to move toward energy independence in the past, but they have been thwarted by Big Oil and their allies in Congress. But, let's give it a shot.
The first step America must take is to get serious about finding alternatives to oil. In Virginia, we have two companies with promising technologies that could help us do just that. Both Red Birch Energy (Danville) and Algal Farms, Inc. (Hopewell) are working to develop innovative biofuel technologies.
In the case of Red Birch farmers can grow canola seeds which are then turned into biodiesel. This technology could power America's trucking industry, but it needs a level playing field. Algal Farms is turning wastewater into algae which can then be turned into biofuel or clean burning synthetic coal.
Why haven't these technologies taken off? The answer is simple. America has an outdated energy policy that favors fossil fuels, and rewards those companies with massive taxpayer funded subsidies. One of the first things we should do as a nation is stop investing in Big Oil and begin investing in the American entrepreneur.
The American spirit has long been the answer to some of our nation's most pressing industrial questions. The question that needs to be answered today is has American ingenuity and entrepreneurship lost to corporate welfare and greed?