“America is addicted to oil,” [Bumiller, E., and Nagourney, A. "Bush: 'America is addicted to oil'," The New York Times, 2-1-06.] President George W. Bush reported to the nation in his 2006 State of the Union address. “The easily accessible oil has already been sucked up out of the ground,” [Revkin, A.C., "Obama Restates Need to Seek More Oil Even as U.S. Uses Less," The New York Times, 5-27-10] said President Barack Obama, responding to the massive Gulf oil leak in May, 2010. North America’s near total dependence on climate damaging oil for its transportation sector threatens our quality of life.
But political leaders of both parties here and governments around the world are not shooting straight with the people about the real extent of risk to the nation of continued oil-dependence. That risk may affect virtually every integrated part of the world economic system.
It is incumbent on our national leaders to openly address issues surrounding the risks of petroleum dependency. Our leaders must not only inform and educate the public about the risks oil dependency place upon our future climate but offer meaningful solutions to avoid or mitigate the worst risks to society and the economy. Clearly, the electrified Steel Interstate System offers the most cost-effective and quickest means to transition our national transportation system from oil-dependent to virtually oil-free.
Support for off-shore drilling remains high in the face of economic and environmental devastation evident from the BP drill rig blow-out. [MSNBC.com, Poll: Despite spill, support for oil drilling high, May 12, 2010.]
Seeing no option to petroleum-based, climate damaging transportation may cause people to lose patience or even panic. At the same time, people are feeling more alienated from leading social institutions. There has been a steep decline in public trust in the federal government to function in the public interest since the War in Vietnam. Sharp erosion in public confidence in government has occurred since the public rallied to support the nation in the wake of 9-11. This loss of confidence is paralleled by increasing anger at government. [Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, "Distrust, Discontent, Anger and Partisan Rancor: The People and Their Government," survey, April 18, 2010] Public distrust in large corporations on the eve of the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf was at a level similar to the public’s distrust in government. [Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, "Distrust, Discontent, Anger and Partisan Rancor: The People and Their Government," survey, April 18, 2010.]
As the consequences of global climate change continue to materialize and accelerate, massive social disruption is likely to occur both in North America and across the globe. Without preparation, the world’s the largest consumer of petroleum, the U.S. military, [Karbuz, S., US military oil pains, Energy Bulletin, 2-17-07] could be affected. National defense could be compromised, which is why the U.S. Joint Forces Command is monitoring the issue.
To keep America on the move and our defenses at a high state of readiness, there is no better way to substitute for liquid petroleum than through electrification. Other commonly mentioned methods, such as shale oil, tar sands, and coal liquefaction face production bottlenecks, cost barriers, or environmental problems, or all three, which make them unsuitable candidates for widespread oil substitution.
To wean ourselves from oil, we need to begin, now, the critical national planning required to move goods and people in coming decades when oil becomes prohibitively expensive and ultimately unavailable as a transportation fuel. Substituting domestically produced electricity is the key. There are no technical barriers to railroad electrification. The technology is available today and widely used around the world. So the Steel Interstate System would readily move people and products, soldiers and material and keep the U.S., and it’s Canadian and Mexican neighbors, strong and secure by meeting both the food and resource needs of our peoples, and the training and deployment capabilities of our militaries.
For further information:
A Proposed National System of Interstate and Defense RAILROADS as an infrastructure project for the next fifty years, J. William Vargrass, for the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.