While going through boxes during a move some years ago, I found Esso gasoline receipts from the '60s (Esso subsequently became Exxon in the United States). I showed them to my children and they were stunned. The price for a fill-up then was $3. Today, the price of gasoline has shot past $3 a gallon and some petroleum analysts predict prices equaling Europe's of $4 or more per gallon by summer 2007. That would mean a cost of $80 to fill a 20-gallon tank.
No study or special commission is needed to understand the root cause of growing energy costs. We've known it for years. Demand fuels cost. While there have been numerous efforts to curb demand or seek alternative energy sources since the 1973 Arab oil boycott, which began the escalation of gas prices, none has taken hold because the price always fell back to acceptable levels. From solar power, to windmills, to today's hybrid cars, nothing seems to have caught on sufficiently to force us to change our oil consuming ways.
Here's something that will: an enemy.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced a goal of putting an American on the moon by the end of the decade. That goal was achieved eight years later. What drove America was the "space race" with the Soviet Union. Communism was evil and we could not afford to allow the Soviets to get to the moon before we did. There were military concerns about what the Soviets might do with a base on the moon, but pride and prestige were also important factors.
It is going to take an enemy to break our oil addiction. The perfect enemy is the oil-producing states with a track record for funding terrorism and whose brand of religion produces young fanatics determined to destroy the West.
If we can get to the moon, virtually from scratch and in just eight years, we can become independent of the mullahs, ayatollahs, sheiks, imams and wackos like the president of Iran and assorted other world criminals who hate us and want to destroy us. This will call for strong leadership from President Bush and future presidents, regardless of party.
Various congressional investigations and reporting have revealed that the United States is subsidizing its own destruction because some of the biggest oil-producing states underwrite terrorism.
One of many excellent books on the subject is "Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks" by economist Loretta Napoleoni. Napoleoni follows the money earned from the sale of oil and shows how it ends up funding terrorism and terrorist centers. Recipients of some of the money include mosques and Islamic schools in America, at least some of which are now, or can be expected to teach, incite, train and equip jihadists to again do unto us what they did on 9-11, and what they carry out regularly in Israel and Iraq.
Napoleoni writes of "The role of Islamic banks" in channeling oil profits and how these banks are "not limited to countries where banking systems did not, or no longer, exist. Their links with armed groups and state-shells also provided a direct and secure channel into traditional economies." She quotes a "retired Russian banker" who told her, "(Islamic banks) are tapped into sophisticated money systems, from which money can be directed to finance terror activity worldwide or to profit in the capitalist world. Correspondent banks, for example, can help hide funds. Banks use them in countries that have no branches."
Americans have always responded to major threats and challenges. Properly framed, they could be made to understand this threat as the greatest challenge the nation has ever faced. To become energy independent and no longer rely on foreign oil would be like depriving Dracula of his blood supply: he would shrivel up and die.
If we are unwilling to "pay any price (and) bear any burden," to again invoke JFK, we will sell our enemies the rope they will use to hang us (to invoke Lenin). Oil independence might also have the virtue of being easier and less costly than going to the moon.
We'll need a slogan. Neil Armstrong's first words on the moon were "That's one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind." How about this one for Energy Independence Day: "Let 'em Eat Sand."
- Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.