Although there are no Memphis blackouts of the kind experienced by Californians this winter, residents of our city have nonetheless been struggling to cope with the consequences of the most serious energy crisis the Unites States has seen since the late 1970s. All over the nation, people are dealing with power shortages of almost every variety. Locally, the problem is with natural gas, as Memphians struggle to pay the highest heating bills in living memory.
Memphis Light Gas and Water, the city's utility monopoly, admits that utility bills are well over twice the amount residents normally pay. According to the utility, the average amount paid by Memphians in January shot up from $161.11 last year to 357.36 this year.
Given the notoriously low wages paid by most Memphis employers, many local workers are faced with difficult choices as they try to find ways to survive until spring. Many families with young children and senior citizens are being forced to decide between cutting back on their grocery budgets and keeping the inside temperature in their houses at dangerously low levels.
What is to be done? New President George W. Bush, eager to pay his Texas oil business buddies for their help during the election, has suggested that the energy crisis can be solved by opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to offshore oil drilling. Environmentalists point out that such drilling would surely destroy one of the last great wildernesses on Earth, subjecting the northern Alaskan coastline to disasters such as the wreck of the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound and the more recent oil spill in the biologically precious Galapagos Islands. George W. Bush, however, has indicated that he regards environmental and health concerns as insignificant compared to the need of his energy industry buddies to make a quick and dirty profit, saying "If there's any environmental regulations preventing California from having a 100 percent max output at their plants, as I understand may be, then we need to relax those standards."
At first glance, Bush's logic sounds solid: if we're short of natural gas and oil to heat our homes, why not just drill for some more? Upon examination, however, his proposals to carve up this nation's northern natural treasure for sale to the highest bidder falls flat.
For one thing, oil drilling can never solve our nation's underlying energy problems because it can only offer a temporary remedy. Oil wells typically dry up within about 10 to 15 years. So, after we sucked the northern Alaskan oil fields dry, we'd be right back where we started, much older but no wiser.
Also, the amount of oil in the oil fields under the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge really isn't all that much. Drilling there would add to the amount of petroleum products available in the United States only by a tiny percent, certainly not enough to make any difference in the high price of those products at the pump or in the home. Besides, all that extra oil being burned would just contribute to the havoc already created by global warming.
A solution much more reasonable than the burn-baby-burn plan of our Dunce-In-Chief is simple conservation. Surely you remember conservation, that thing people did in the late 70s and early 80s before Reagan's Republicans cut funding and undermined environmental legislation. By driving more fuel efficient cars, heating and cooling our homes with the power of the sun, and funding significant research into affordable household solar electrical generators, we can create a permanent over the current energy crisis in half the time, with a fraction of the costs, and none of the environmental devastation that Bush's plan risks.
Bush and the puppet-masters who pull the strings behind his minority-mandate presidency argue that it's unfair to ask Americans to restrain their voracious appetites for non-renewable energy. In a way, this argument is strangely reminiscent of our President's earlier justifications for the unrestrained appetite for alcohol that led to his drunk driving conviction a few years back. Well, I guess we all have to decide for ourselves what's fair and what isn't, but as for myself, I just can't see how permanently destroying a national treasure for the sake of a few big oil companies makes much sense. As long as we're driving sport utility vehicles as big as tanks, using electric can openers, and lighting and watering the Las Vegas desert strip just so that people can play blackjack, we just might deserve a blackout every now and then.
Additional absurdities straight from His Majesty's Royal T-ball Field can also be found at the official website of The Ribald Reign of King George the Second.
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