The coming storm and the harsh reality

The unfortunate reality is that quick fixes are not going to last forever.

Here in Minnesota, heading to the gas pump lately has been a painful experience, especially for those who don’t drive fuel-efficient automobiles. No one denies the hurricane’s involvement in the acute spike in gas prices, but now we must take action to prevent the rising cost from becoming a chronic problem.

The direct environmental fallout from the hurricane is astronomical in itself. Pollution from oil and dangerous heavy metals poses health problems for those still in the coastal cities. The indirect fallout is that those seeking to alleviate the high gas prices are now looking in all the wrong places.

Oil industry officials are lobbying for more leeway in the pursuit of offshore drilling. Lawmakers are asking for a permanent repeal of the Environmental Protection Agency’s air pollution guidelines that were temporarily suspended to allow for easier gas supply flow. The movement to start drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is getting harder and harder to fight. Lobbyists are still fighting to lift other environmental laws that have prevented the construction of new refineries.

The sad truth is that no matter how many environmental concessions we make, and how many new places we drill, there is a finite amount of oil available on our planet. Why compromise our health and safety with lower air and water pollution standards when the benefits would last only a few more years?

The only way to make our oil last is through conservation efforts and alternative energy sources. The automotive industry fights higher fuel efficiency standards, saying the market will dictate the necessary changes. But even with gas at nearly $3 per gallon, Hummers and Excursions are still out on the road. The market is starting to turn driving into an elitist activity, instead of keeping gas prices down. Even the country’s biggest airlines are blaming their financial woes on high fuel costs.

The unfortunate reality is that quick fixes are not going to last forever, yet the current administration wants to rely on them exclusively. Instead, it must take a more proactive approach to conservation and fuel efficiency and not give in to knee-jerk reactions in the wake of a natural disaster.