Energy situation deserves a new Manhattan Project?

Monday, April 11, 2005

As gasoline prices climb higher and higher, U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is hoping that worldwide leaders, national lawmakers and the America people are finally getting the message about energy production.

"We have not been paying attention to energy. We have not been paying attention to domestic production of energy and so we have a problem," the senator said in an article written by Robert Pore of the Grand Island Independent.

Hagel's point is underscored by statistics from the government's Energy Information Administration. In projections released Thursday of last week, the agency projected that average gasoline prices will peak at $2.35 in May. That compares to an average of $2.22 a gallon paid last week by U.S. gasoline consumers.

But, despite the soaring costs at the pump, motorists are not easing off the roads. Demand for gasoline this summer is projected at 9.3 million barrels a day, a total that represents a 1.8 percent increase over last summer.

So what can and should be done? Unfortunately, Hagel says, there are no easy or quick answers. "That's because we have deferred the problem and the issue and we have not dealt with it," he said. "It has only gotten worse."

Despite the temptation to seek a quick fix, Sen. Hagel says the energy problem is not going to be solved by conservation measures or additional government regulations. "Regulation is going to hurt you more," he said. "That's why we've got such high gas prices, because of too much regulation on refineries." Hagel also says that it won't work to conserve our way out of the crisis, because that will cause the economy to go down.

What alternatives does that leave? In Hagel's view, the answer is to get back to domestically produced energy sources in this country, and that does include oil and natural gas."

Saying America has undermined itself, the senator points out that, "We haven't built a new refinery or new nuclear power plant in this country since the late 1970s." As a start in the direction of reversing the problem, Hagel believes the United States needs to exploit all of its existing fossil fuel reserves, including the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve."

"The Arctic National Wildlife Reserve is part of the answer. It's not all the answer," he said. "But we are so undermining our own economic interests in this country by these silly, silly things we are doing to ourselves. I don't blame anybody else. I blame ourselves."

In summary, Hagel says the only way to solve the energy problem is by focusing the nation's creative energy on finding a solution. He compared the situation to the Manhattan Project which developed the atomic bomb during World War II. "I think the urgency (of finding an energy solution) is of that magnitude."

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