|By MEGAN KUHN
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) called for dramatic and immediate action to address U.S. energy vulnerability Aug. 29 during the Richard G. Lugar-Purdue University Summit on Energy Security at Purdue University’s West Lafayette, Ind. campus.
“Neither American oil companies, nor American car companies have shown an inclination to dramatically transform their businesses in ways that will achieve the degree of change we need to address a national security emergency,” Lugar said while addressing nearly 1,000 summit attendees. “Most importantly, the federal government is not treating energy vulnerability as a crisis, despite an increase in energy-related proposals.”
Lugar described the country’s energy dilemma as a six-pronged threat to national security. Those threats are:
•Oil supplies are vulnerable to natural disasters, wars and terrorist attacks that can disrupt the lifeblood of the international economy.
•As large industrializing nations, such as China and India, seed new energy supplies, oil and natural gas will become more expensive. In the long term, the world’s oil supply may not be abundant and accessible enough to support continued growth in both the industrialized West and other rapidly growing economies.
•Adversarial regimes, including Venezuela, Iran, Russia and others, are using energy supplies as leverage against their neighbors. This increases the chances of armed conflict, terrorism and economic collapse.
•Revenues flowing to authoritarian regimes can increase corruption in those countries and allow them to insulate themselves from international pressure and the democratic aspirations of their own people.
•The threat of climate change has been made worse by inefficient and unclean use of non-renewable energy. In the long term, this could bring drought, famine, disease and mass migration, all of which could lead to conflict and instability.
•Much of the developing world is being hit hard by rising energy costs, which often cancel the benefits of our foreign assistance.
“Our current dependence on imported oil has put the United States in a position that no great power should tolerate,” he said. “Our economic health is subject to forces far beyond our control, including the decisions of hostile countries.”
rgy dependency solutions
Lugar not only addressed the problems, but also suggested ways to curb the country’s dependency on foreign oil.
“We must move now to address our energy vulnerability,” he said. “The plan I am proposing today would achieve the replacement of 6.5 million barrels of oil per day by volume - the rough equivalent of one third of the oil used in America and one half of our current oil imports.”
The senator proposed:
•Adopting a national program to make virtually every new car sold in the U.S. a flexible fuel vehicle.
•Making at least one quarter of filling stations in the U.S. capable of handling E-85.
•Expanding ethanol production to 100 billion gallons a year by 2025.
•Creating an approximate $45 per barrel price floor on oil through a variable ethanol tax credit, thus ensuring a steady flow of investments into alternative fuels.
•Urging Congress to enact mileage standards that set a target of annual improvements in fuel economy.
“We must move now to address our energy vulnerability because sufficient investment cannot happen overnight, and it will take years to build supporting infrastructure and to change behavior,” he said. “In other words, by the time a sustained energy crisis fully motivates market forces, we are likely to be well past the point where we can save ourselves from extensive suffering.”
Support from constituent
During his luncheon address at the summit, U.S. Representative Pete Visclosky (R-Ind.) agreed with Sen. Lugar on the need for governmental involvement in the energy arena.
“Clearly our nation has an energy problem,” Visclosky said. “The President has said we are addicted to oil - something not to be taken lightly given his roots in the industry.”
He agreed with Lugar that fuel efficiency needs to be addressed, something he doesn’t take lightly.
“As the representative of the congressional district that produces more steel than any state in the country, I have always opposed raising those (CAFE) standards,” he said. “But I’m also aware that, amid our growing energy problem, the average fuel economy for cars sold in the U.S. is almost exactly where it was in 1982.”
He continued, “Given this lack of progress, I think it’s time we start looking toward solutions that benefit the nation as a whole. Raising the CAFE standards will go a long way to reducing gasoline consumption. The technology exists to meet higher standards.”
He said that he thinks that the state’s steel industry can adapt to the changes by, for example, providing a lighter and stronger metal to the auto industry to increase the fuel efficiency without sacrificing safety.
Lugar pressed automakers and oil companies to do more to ease reliance on foreign oil, while acknowledging they were in a for-profit business.
“I’m asking that each new Ford, each new car in this country, have a flex-fuel component,” Lugar said. “I just want them to put the cars out there so Americans can make a choice as consumers between gas, E-85 and other alternatives that come along.”
But industry representatives defended what they have already done.
Sue Cischke, vice president for environmental and safety engineering at Ford Motor Co., said the company already offers three cars and one truck that run on the hybrid ethanol fuel E85 and plans to double the number by 2010. But E-85 isn’t widely available, she said.
“You can’t sell the cars if the fuel is not there, and you can’t get the fuels without the cars,” she said.
Carol Battershell, vice president of alternative energy for BP Inc., said the energy giant already invests billions of dollars in alternative fuels and has been blending biofuels in the U.S. for 25 years.
Purdue happy with turnout
Joseph L. Bennett, co-director of the summit and Purdue’s vice president for university relations, estimated the actual attendance to be “900-plus,” well over the goal of 600. He said that a combination of factors contributed to the overwhelming turnout.
“People have recognized this is an important issue, and the summit was a sincere and credible attempt to address it,” Bennett said. “Senator Lugar - one of America’s most respected statesmen - made the event a high priority, and Purdue is a university with a reputation for delivering on its commitments.”
For more information about the summit, visit www.purdue.edu/energysummit/
This farm news was published in the Sept. 6, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.