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Might As Well Face It

Friday, Feb. 03, 2006 12:01 AM

If America is 'addicted to oil,' as President Bush suggested in his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, then drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is perhaps the least effective measure we could pursue.

Unless, of course, one believes telling an alcoholic that the bar down the street is a better choice than the one across town constitutes sound advice. Drilling in ANWR is like a compulsive gambler thinking he can hock his wedding ring and win big on the next bet.

Domestic drilling is a last, desperate grab for a final suck off the petroleum teat before we are faced with having to wean ourselves.

Here's what we need to do. We need to focus on new, sustainable and/or renewable energy sources, such as solar energy or the hybrid engine technologies just coming to the market. We need to put American innovation and excellence behind that technology and put Made In America on it.

This approach addresses two of the key elements: limited resources and foreign possession.

Of course, the strategy is useless without the cooperation of the oil conglomerates, who continue to reap record profits, not unlike pushers who know their clientele will be back for another fix, no matter the price. Which is why I emphasize American innovation and ownership.

Mr. Bush's call for a 75% reduction in Middle East sources by 2025 is nothing more than a campaign promise. It's so far down the road that people can push it onto the back burner and never get it done. (Kennedy's challenge to put a man on the moon was much tighter - within the decade, and a strong possibility of completion within his second term, had he lived and been re-elected.)

But Mr. Bush's speech is belied by one small item.

The Energy Department is laying off researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory due to budget cuts.

The lights are on, but you're not home ...

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