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Happy Non-Independence Day!

As the U.S. celebrates the Declaration of Independence and the free nation it led to, it remains too dependent on oil imports.

by on Jul.04, 2010

We need another War of Independence.

The Fourth of July celebration and the three-day weekend that accompanies it this year are right in the middle of the peak driving season in the United States.

It also marks our non-independence days, as the U.S. continues to import oil at a gas guzzling rate of about 10  million barrels per day, the highest level in 15 months as highway travel grows along with a fragile jobless recovery.

This national security threat distorts our foreign policy, sends our patriotic young men and women off to needless wars,  and is a massive transfer of our wealth to other nations, including some that would destroy us – if given the chance. It has been a problem we have ignored for decades.

There is a sorry history here of failed policy initiatives and big money lobbying against them  going all the way back to the Carter Administration, which proposed a comprehensive or omnibus bill, crucial – then as now – to wean the U.S. from foreign oil after the first OPEC oil embargo and crisis.  Carter failed to prevail against big oil, and we still have no coherent energy policy. (See Former President Carter at Energy Security Hearing Blasts U.S. Record on Imported Oil)

As is now the case – and was then – enormous sums of money are involved, and there are  no lobbyists for American Energy Independence, but armies upon armies of them for special interest, multi-national corporations benefitting from the status quo – and they care not a sack of tea about our independence, quite the contrary. In an earlier time, they would have been in favor of enforcing the Stamp Act and staying loyal to British rule.

Oh where, oh where, are the latter day descendants of Paul Revere and Sam or John Adams or Benjamin Franklin, who went to war as a grandfather while his son, the fat cat governor of New Jersey remained loyal to the Crown? Our current plight gives a whole new meaning to Green Mountain Boys, and we now need “green” mountain boys and girls more than ever.

The U.S. national average retail price for regular gasoline was $2.91 per gallon on May 10 before Memorial Day. Uncharacteristically, prices then fell for five weeks (beware of Greeks bearing debts?), before rising during the last two weeks to reach $2.76 per gallon as of June 28, the last government reporting period. Current retail gasoline prices are above their year-ago levels, but lower than prices during the same period in 2007 and 2006.

In 2008, of course, the highest gasoline prices ever were recorded (not inflation-adjusted) in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s survey, including the record price of $4.11 on July 7. That record, however, was followed by a sharp decline to $1.61 per gallon by the end of 2008, and the U.S. average price has not breached the $3-per-gallon mark since then. Recently sales of trucks have been rising as a result. How quick we forget. (See Here We Go Again: With Crude Oil at Record 2009 Prices, Where is Our Energy Policy?)

Oil will ultimately rise more in price if the Global Great Recession ever subsides, which it will, and hopefully in your lifetime. Moreover, even at current prices importing so much oil hurts us. We need to be free of this oil curse that is currently on full, floating display in the Gulf of Mexico.

So shame on us for forgetting that independence is our tradition, and independence is our national strength.

Shame on us for forgetting that independence of foreign entanglements made us a great country that looked after its own citizens and eschewed alliances with corrupt overseas governments.

Shame on us for easily giving up our independence won with blood so we could continue to drive gas-guzzlers, as auto, oil and power company lobbyists and the politicians in their pockets thwart real reforms.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of 1776, the 18th century year that was the start of something great and thus far enduring, let us find the fighting spirit once again and move toward another type independence.

So happy Independence Day!

We should celebrate our past, and the men and women of vision who created this country starting with the War of Independence, through the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution, as fine a document of governance of the people, by the people and for the people that ever existed.

Moreover, may we celebrate an Energy Independence Day sometime in the  future – for our people and by our people.