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Re: [GreenYes] Fwd: Flagwaving vs. concrete patriotism
Below is a letter to the editor recently published in my local paper:

Energy and the Quest for Peace

Terror is an ancient weapon of war.  Body paint, noise, the 
determination of troops and the horror of witnessing thousands of 
innocents losing their lives Ė all of these have been the instruments of 
terror.  Terrorists place themselves on a path towards death because, 
within themselves, they feel greatly provoked.  The path to that 
provocation leads through Americaís reliance on petroleum.
Almost thirty years ago, long lines at the gas pumps and an energy 
crisis gripped America.  America responded in part with more 
fuel-efficient autos and motors, but as domestic petroleum became 
scarcer and more expensive to extract and refine, dependence on foreign 
petroleum grew.  Then came the Gulf War.  The President put together a 
broad coalition in response to what was widely perceived as the 
aggression of Iraq against Kuwait.  Kuwait remained independent.  But 
the US appetite for energy, steady from 1973-91, has grown in the past 
ten years and so has US dependence on foreign oil.  
To the detractors of the United States, the Gulf War was not about 
resisting aggression against Kuwait.  It was about propping up a 
government that would feed our energy consumption habits regardless of 
how much Muslim nations came under the influence of American culture and 
values.  To our detractors, the ugly side of those values includes our 
materialism, wanton sexuality and disregard of spiritual values. To such 
detractors it is unsurprising that people with such poor values would 
expose themselves, in their greed, by cravenly consuming more and more 
oil, then insisting that others should meet their needs.  
America is a peace-loving nation.  Americans do not seek war and they 
earnestly pray that the present conflict can be resolved with the least 
possible bloodshed.  What we know today, however, is that winning the 
Gulf War did not end the conflict.  Instead, despite our care to avoid 
civilian targets during the war, post-war American effort has led some 
people to instigate the terrorism we have so painfully experienced.
What we did not gain from the Gulf War was immunity from detractors who 
despise our extraction of oil from foreign supplies.  We need an 
alternative that does not annoy so people of other cultures that our 
detractors continue to win a stream of converts to their terrorist 
ways.
Because we are a peace-loving nation, a nation whose people would not 
want to sew the seeds of conflict, one lesson for us is that we must 
move immediately to reduce and eliminate our reliance on foreign 
petroleum.  When hostilities next cease, we donít want to continue to 
need to fight to protect our dependence on foreign oil.  Ceasing that 
dependence will affirm our peaceful intentions.
The scale of our energy needs is a serious matter. The nationís use of 
oil is great enough today that an intensified search for domestic 
sources, even the opening of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, would be 
statistically meaningless.  We simply do not have the domestic sources 
to reduce petroleum imports significantly.
So the question is how to act.  What petroleum supplies is mobility for 
the nation and heating for the Northeast.  I am myself a strong 
proponent of conservation and of renewable energy.  But even doubling 
the fuel efficiency of gas-powered vehicles would leave us seriously 
dependent on foreign oil a full ten years from now.  And when less than 
1% of the energy needs of the nation are met by solar and wind power 
together, we donít begin to have the infrastructure to heat the 
Northeast through these important future energy sources.
What the United States has is an abundance of coal.  Traditionally, 
however, reliance on coal has had two significant drawbacks.  First, a 
lot of our coal is dirty.  Burned, it produces smog, air pollution, 
asthma, dead lakes and burdens our good Canadian neighbors do not 
deserve.  Second, nobody drives a coal-burning car down the street.  
Can a turn to coal answer these two challenges?  Coal gasification can.  
Coal gasification is a process of submitting coal to enormous pressure 
in an oxygen-starved environment.  The result is a gas.  Such gas could 
be piped to the northeast to warm the winter.  
The most publicized coal gasification processes are capable of 
responding to the northeastís home heating needs.  Because the process 
allows the carbon dioxide it produces to be sequestered, it is also much 
more environmentally friendly than burning coal or oil has ever been.
But that path speaks not at all to vehicle fuel.  The hydrogen and 
carbon monoxide in that gasification stream are not suitable vehicle 
fuels.  Is there an alternative?
The ready option is for the nation to move towards coal gasification 
that co-produces methanol fuel and electricity.  Again, the gasification 
process avoids venting pollutants into the atmosphere.  And the methanol 
can be formulated into M85, the mix of methanol with 15% gasoline that 
fleets use in California.  Not only does this gasification process 
respond to transportation needs.  It also yields gas that can be burned 
in a gas turbine it to produce electricity much more cleanly than coal 
combustion does today.  Bottom-line: Coal gasification to co-produce 
methanol and electricity is a powerful answer to our energy needs.  If 
we were to convert our old coal combustion facilities for gasification 
co-production, it has been carefully estimated, we would eliminate our 
need for foreign oil at the same time that our impact on the natural 
environment became much more benign.  
So let us not aggravate one-time supporters to become our enemies, 
roughly ignoring the nuances of their culture.  Let us not pollute our 
neighbors, the natural world and ourselves in ways that our children 
must ultimately repay.  Instead, let us use the technological and 
organizational capacities of our great nation so the resources that so 
richly bless us remove us from the terrorist vulnerability now 
encroaching.
As the President has told us, we are engaged in a multifaceted conflict. 
 Beyond military questions, he has told us, lie diplomatic, cultural and 
economic issues.  Energy supply is a central, underlying factor.  No 
matter how successful we are militarily, diplomatically, culturally, and 
economically, we shall not succeed in the mission to which the President 
has called the nation until we put our energy house in order.  

Donald Scherer, Professor of Applied Philosophy at Bowling Green State 
University, is, with James Child, the co-author of Two Paths towards 
Peace and the editor of Upstream-Downstream Issues in Environmental 
Ethics.

Those who acknowledge Don Scherer's authorship of the above are free to 
post, copy and disseminate it.


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