By Ron VandenBoom
Those of you old enough to remember 30 years ago, might also remember what a trip to the service station was like back then.
Nobody well, almost nobody pumped his or her own gas. At least one, and in some cases two, attendants would care for your car while at the same time filling it with gas. The attendants would check the oil and water, and even wash your windshield.
After paying for your purchase, the attendants would give you a handful of green, yellow or plaid trading stamps that you could later redeem for a toaster, blender, or barbecue.
You received all of this and a smile too for a product that sold for about 35-40 cents a gallon.
All this came to an end after OPEC (Oil Producing and Exporting Countries) saw fit to use their newfound power as weapon to punish the United States for it's stand on Israel. This they did by turning off the tap on American exports.
Nobody knew it at the time, but the glory days of cheap gas and aggressive competition between oil companies were gone.
Well, 30 years later, America still has no energy policy. Nor have we developed any new alternatives to oil. Our dependence on OPEC has actually increased by 40 percent over the last 30 years a fact that was directly responsible for America's involvement in the Gulf War.
Today, however, we face another energy crisis. This time the crisis is over a shortage of electricity. But the enemy does not come from the Middle East. This time the enemy is within.
Over the passed 30 years one roadblock after another has been placed in the path of increased development of electrical energy. Be it by government bureaucracy and red tape or by environmental concerns and protection acts, power companies have been denied the ability to increase production. Meanwhile the demand for energy continues to rise.
Nuclear energy we've been told is dangerous. Coal fired plants produce sulfur dioxide or dirty air. Windmills are a threat to birds that might accidentally fly into the blades and solar energy is very expensive and only partially successful. Dams, we're told, are an obvious threat to the migration of fish and need to be breached and natural gas requires pipelines to supply fuel to the plants an obvious eyesore that perhaps will interfere with animal migration patterns.
While it is possible to work together with government, environmental groups and animal rights activists, it is impractical and unreasonable to expect that we remove the needs of the human animal from the equation. While it's true that American's generally use more energy than is necessary and conservation will help, it is also true that our energy needs are only going to increase in years to come.
As strange as it seems, the answer to our current energy problems, at least in the long view, is the same as it should have been 30 years ago. That being, remove roadblocks to the development of new energy. In other words, reduce or eliminate the red tape involved in building power productions facilities.
It is also necessary that we allow for increased competition in the marketplace by abolishing existing government sponsored and protected power company monopolies and preventing the establishment of any new monopolies.
Government could also help by reducing or eliminating taxes on any new power generation facilities and on the development of new alternative energy sources.
Also, while it is important to protect our natural environment from being permanently damaged by our demand for energy, it does not follow that energy companies and environmentalists cannot work together to satisfy both needs. Government needs to amend environmental laws to allow for reasonable development and reasonable protection.
Some of what I have written about has already been enacted by the Montana Legislature.
Now we have to encourage the same thinking on the part of Congress.