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Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda: Energy policy must change

Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda
My View

I’d bet you don’t know who Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani is. He is the guy we allowed to design United States energy policy.

He warned the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), in the aftermath of the crippling oil embargo of 1974, to be careful to price oil "just right." He urged OPEC to keep us, in effect, addicted to oil. Oil prices should be low enough so that Americans would not be incensed and incentivized, as they were during the embargo, to begin serious innovation and market interest in solar, wind and other renewable energy sources. Those who had purchased compact cars, become "Watt Watchers," turned their thermostats down in the winter and up in the summer, and even put up solar panels on the White House began to look silly in the face of falling and stabilizing oil prices.

Cheap oil, priced to give the oil-rich nations like Saudi Arabia, the other Persian Gulf states, Iran, Russia and Venezuela great gobs of profit with our profligate use of their main export, kept us coming back for more. The sum total of our energy policy since the mid 1970s has been to hope, cajole and in many ways appease these nations to get them to keep oil prices low, while we transfer a great deal of our wealth to them as we consume more and more oil.

Energy policy is the government’s business for two vital reasons: (1) national security and (2) the health of our national economy.

There is a high cost to "cheap oil," foreign or domestic. Whether it is that our economy is sick, that our military is more vulnerable than it should be, that our planet is polluted and changing in dangerous ways, or that we continually bargain our national soul for our addiction to oil, my point is that oil, and other "cheap" forms of energy, cost us plenty.

When the impact of not honestly and openly accounting for the cost to our nation and this state has a negative impact on our economy, health, environment and national security, then it is the responsibility of each of us, and our leaders, civic, elected and business, to become part of the solution.

Much as the United States, a sleepy and relatively young giant, chose to yawn at the Nazi threat at the start of World War II, so have we, up until June 26 in Congress, chosen to yawn at the threat to our environment — an Earth gasping with the weight of billions of Chinese and Indians imitating the American consumerism lifestyle.

If the environmental perspective does not wake you up, then open your eyes to the startling fact that over 70 percent of our lifeblood, oil, is supplied to us by governments that don’t like us. What if they decided to shut off or continue to manipulate that supply for their own national goals? We send billions of dollars to those nations so that they can reach their own national goals while a rising quality of life for our children and grandchildren is less assured than ever.

We have become oil junkies. Our fate, unless we kick the habit, is largely out of our control. Wake up, America; wake up, Florida! Take control of your future.

Americans finally did wake up to defeat the Nazis. Our country mobilized to produce planes, ships, tanks and jeeps. We can do the same, if we have the will, when it comes to new sources of energy. We needn’t risk life and limb on the battlefield to win this effort. We do need to have the same "can do!" attitude, be brave and bold, work hard, work smart and join together to conserve, innovate and get away from foreign oil and eventually oil altogether.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act is the first true effort to rid our nation of its reliance on foreign oil and set the stage to move America off our reliance on oil and coal generally. The domestic production of energy by our nation’s farmers, entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists gives us new life and strengthens our nation. As President Obama said in a speech to commemorate D-Day: "Our history has always been the sum total of the choices made and the actions taken by each individual man and woman. It has always been up to us."

Although I disagree with Congressman Allen Boyd regarding nuclear energy, I appreciate his courage and foresight in voting for HB 2454, which marks a defining moment for our nation. Let’s urge our senators to show the same strong leadership.

Additional Facts

Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda represents District 9, the Tallahassee area, in the Florida House of Representatives. Contact her at