The Oil Spill as America's Wake up Call: The Urgent Need for an American Energy NASA

The Gulf Oil Spill is a stunning wake up call that places into question our relationship to oil. How it is consumed, and how it is brought to market has to change fundamentally. Not drilling off shore or elsewhere throughout the nation is not an answer. Rather, how extraction done -- and who does it -- has to be profoundly reassessed. As long as we are dependent on foreign oil to conduct our economy, all our own resources have to be put into play, but subject to a very new set of rules.

This space has written about the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate which can and should serve as a prime example of what must now be done. (Please see: "The Oil Industry Is Driving Away With Our Future-The Norway Solution" )

These posts have also cited the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as an example of successful American governmental entrepreneurship (please see "As Bush Lifts Restrictions On Offshore Drilling, We Need a TVA For Oil/Gas Production" 07.15.08). The TVA has had a brilliant record of achievement in electric power generation, river navigation, flood control, reforestation and erosion control.

Now is the moment, given our wake up call, to go one major step further, to create an American Energy NASA! To put under an American agency the responsibility of accessing our fossil fuel resources, both oil and gas, and to introduce policies to reduce our energy consumption and make us energy self-reliant through extracting our own resources safely with profound environmental concerns and expertise.

Clearly, we can no longer depend on the bottom line driven oil industry to access our national fossil fuel resources. What is needed is an American inspired central organization of the best and brightest and most dedicated minds in the oil industry, and world class environmental scientists and engineers to work together to access those resources safely -- whether they be our vast and newly discovered reservoirs of shale gas on land, our vast and largely untapped resources of shale oil in the American northwest and of course our oil reserves on land throughout the country and offshore on the Continental Shelf.

Together with this mandate will be the responsibility to research and develop environmentally friendly and less polluting alternatives to fossil fuel, ranging from highly efficient electric car propulsion, biofuels where appropriate, and so on -- not exclusively, but in focused competition with and assistance to the private sector.

Among the further responsibilities of the American Energy NASA should be the introduction of national policies that directly impact and limit our consumption of fossil fuels to levels that are environmentally tenable and help us move to fossil fuel self sufficiency (and eventually off fossil fuels altogether). This could well include a national quota on gasoline consumption that would be distributed equitably through a system such as but one example, a regimen of 'gas purchase permits' (GPP), to consumers throughout the land in the form of a magnetic debit cards (please see "A Forceful and Immediate Antidote to Our Oil Dependence," 03.07.06.

Sound complicated? We had an analogous program during WWII. We won that war. And back then, we didn't have the technology of magnetic debit cards.

Needless to say, the oil industry will fight any such changes in policy with all the resources at their disposal -- and those resources are huge. Only a truly committed and engaged public can stare them down. Is it not time?