What Else Could We Have Bought for $500 Billion

As the election season heats up, and the collective consciousness of the electorate here at home shifts it’s focus toward the ongoing litany of financial crises, the war in Iraq rolls on. This week’s votes on additional funding, ending the war, and extending the GI Bill in the House and the Senate Appropriations committee saw a victory in the House by defeating the supplemental funding thanks to 132 Republicans voting “present”.

While no one wants to see our troops suffer in the field due to a lack of funding, something must be done to reign in the Administration’s irresponsible handling of the war, and the funding needed to stabilize the situation in Iraq. Since 2003, this Administration has received over $500 billion in supplemental funding for Iraq alone. Half a trillion dollars spent on a war that, by all accounts, has not only made us less safe, but also diminished our ability to engage in diplomatic relations with other nations. Further, the strain on our economy, including higher energy prices partially due to increased military consumption, is breaking the financial backs of average Americans.

For years people, including the President, have been talking about the development of alternative fuels/energy as a hedge against the cartels that have supplied much of the raw material that makes up our energy consumption. President Bush noted the importance of this in his 2003 State of the Union. At the time he proposed $1.2B for the development of hydrogen powered vehicles. As of this writing several major companies have come up with solutions for a hydrogen powered vehicle, but only one vehicle from a major manufacturer is retail ready, and only in Southern California.

In 2008 the total amount requested in President Bush’s budget to research alternative energy was only $2.7 billion. With energy now squarely both a national security and fiscal security issue, two questions must be asked: Why so little Mr. President? and Just how much energy security (in the form of R&D) would even half of the $500 billion spent on your failing war in Iraq buy?

Perhaps what’s most disturbing is that even supporters of the war agree that our continued presence in Iraq is about oil. With this revelation McCain’s insistence on continued support of the war, taints anything he might have to say about creating an economy based on something other than oil dependence. We’ve been fed a line of junk from this administration and it’s apologists (surprised?) about energy independence. Not only do they have no intention of making any real strides to remove us, the American people, from the crack dealer relationship that we’re currently suffering with the OPEC cartel but they and their sponsors have been reaping the rewards of their inaction, at the hands of both the National and fiscal security of our county and citizens.

To be fair, 5 years is hardly enough time to transition a country as large as ours from oil dependence to something more sustainable. It would take hundreds of billions of dollars to create the infrastructure to support an economy that was less dependent on oil. Ultimately, that’s what needs to happen.

Since long before the dawn of the industrial revolution, ours has been a world of burning stuff out of the ground for energy. Until we stop looking at merely burning stuff for energy, we’re destined for a future of both increasing temperatures and unsustainable energy prices…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Seeing what’s happening to people in this time of tenuous supply and increasing demand, it’s important that going forward we look to new technologies to supply the energy we demand. This demand is unrealistic, but again I’m getting ahead of myself.

I doubt that America, in my lifetime, will ever be totally fossil fuel independent, but we need to be working harder to that end. Be it wind, solar, hydro-electric, or hydrogen, that work needs to move faster and harder. As long as we have an oil man in the White House, or a potential sympathizer (McCain), that ain’t gonna happen.

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