Both major presidential candidates have made ending our dependence on oil a major plank in their platforms. But the means of doing so tends, in both cases, to be uncomfortably hazy. Obviously, no politician wants to tell the voters that he will impose policies that are unarguably going to be painful. But I have a hunch that the future may belong to that political leader -- either one of the current candidates, or someone who may manifest himself in the near future -- who has the courage to stake his career on telling the American people the truth and calling on them to end our dependence on oil while there is still time.
Winston Churchill was able to summon the British people to make heroic sacrifices in World War II, when the survival of the nation clearly depended on beating Hitler. The oil crisis doesn't have the fearsome lineaments of Hitler, but it is every bit as serious a threat, and it is not beyond possibility that an eloquent leader could make the peoples of the major Western nations realize this and react accordingly.
It is, after all, simply a matter of accepting certain temporary privations -- primarily, giving up our total dependence on gas-guzzling cars -- in the interest of shifting to other forms of energy that are more reliable. Oil would not be banished as a source of energy; it would simply become less overwhelmingly dominant.
If we refuse to do this, we will simply become ever more at the mercy of foreign despots to whom we are already paying hundreds of billions of dollars every year for oil that, by sheer chance, happens to lie under their hot and sandy domains. They could bring the West to its knees in a matter of months if they chose to. They haven't, yet, because it's more profitable not to. But that is no basis for a sane American foreign policy.
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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