As billionaire hedge fund magnate and oil specialist T. Boone Pickens has emphasized, Â“America's annual expenditure of $700 billion for foreign oil represents the greatest transfer of a nation's wealth in history;Â” and a major chunk of this largesse falls into the hands of OPEC, most of whose members are latently hostile to the United States, if not outright supportive of anti-American terrorism.
In spite of circumstances that call for a massive exploitation of more than a potential trillion barrels of U.S. oil reserves, political wrangling, and a hardened standoff between Republicans and Democrats on a drill/no drill confrontation, it's doubtful that any congressional compromise should be expected before the White House changing of the guard next January, if then.
In fact, with the Â“climate changeÂ” progenitors establishing a foothold in both parties, America's greatest energy potential resource Â— coal Â— is getting bad reviews from both sides of the aisle. The United States happens to contain the largest single reserves of coal, estimated in the hundreds of billion tons.
Both the Obama and McCain factions are on board with the ludicrous cap/trade bill, which would put the main onus of CO2 and greenhouse gas restrictions on the United States. Only nuclear energy and natural gas would be held harmless; but even they have their detractors.
While China, India and other emerging nations would be given a multiple years' pass, the struggling U.S. industrial sector would be the leading victim of this bill's passage, while coal would be designated Public Enemy No. 1.
It's the ultimate irony that today's booming U.S. coal industry is largely adding huge revenues to America's record-breaking export sector.
The Chinese and Indians, who are building scores of new power-generating stations, have no compunction about using coal, but need to secure America's vast supplies to expand their ability to provide electricity for their rapidly expanding populations.
But even without passage of formal legislation, America's coal-fired utilities are slowly being shut down, and those already on the drawing boards cannot get bank financing because of fear these debts will never be repaid; under the certainty that coal will be considered an unacceptable collateral, even though the expansion of power is way behind acceptable levels today.
In fact, demand vs. future supply puts this nation's electricity usage at a 2-to-1 disadvantage, at least.
Since America's political power structure is increasingly hostile toward imported oil converted from coal derivatives, such as Canada's tar sands, even that desperately needed supply may eventually be considered unacceptable. This would leave the United States short of its No. 1 oil-providing producer Â— Canada.
Even a convincing Â“clean coal technologyÂ” would be looked at with a jaundiced eye; and the idea of coal liquefaction, which was effectively used by Germany in the last years of World War II, and South Africa's Sasol Corp., would not be able to handle the anti-coal antipathy that the environmentalists have made unacceptable under any circumstances.
Since coking coal is an indispensable element in the manufacture of steel, which is on a red-hot streak, both Indian and Russian steel-makers are dickering with U.S. major coal providers to ink long-term buying contracts. Even that door may be shut as the environmentalists become ever more powerful.
America needs to wake up to reality; but there is no bugler to blow the horn. Don't be surprised if blackouts and brownouts become increasingly prevalent as shortages begin to manifest themselves in the years ahead.