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Iraq and Oil

August 23, 2005 @ 12:00 am EDT


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Let me begin by saying I hate this war. I have hated this war long before it began. When we celebrated “Mission Accomplished” on the deck of the carrier a friend said to me “Now what do you think, now that it’s over?” I said it’s not over, and if it is over, and the Iraqi people have democracy tomorrow, it still will not have been worth subverting the constitution to go to war.


The question is what do we do now? The president says “Stay the course” What course? Senator Russ Feingold says set a timetable, and the rest of the democrats are saying some variation of what the president is saying. Meanwhile I’m thinking of the warning called the Pottery Barn scenario issued by Colin Powell, when he said, “Mr. President if you break it you own it.” I’m afraid I have to agree with Mr. Powell. But there is a way out of this mess.


If we mobilize this country to be self-sufficient and be able to function without imported oil we could break the back of this insurgency. Impossible? No, Expensive? Yes! But how expensive is running a war? $5billion per month? Forty soldiers per month? Hundreds of Iraqi civilians per month? What about the unfathomable lost humanity of our young soldiers. What about the legion of homeless, broken men and women that will eventually return and roam our streets aimlessly, the way many of our unfortunate Viet Nam era soldiers are doing right now.


Many, or perhaps most, of the fighters are native to these other Arab states. I believe that they are watching this struggle with some degree of satisfaction. These insurgents are being supplied by some of our so-called allies. 


By creating an alternate scenario we can seriously depress the price of oil. When the Saudi’s, the Kuwaiti’s and the other oil producing countries realize that we are serious and are willing to sacrifice, they will participate in the pacification of Iraq. They will step up to the plate and intercede in Iraq. They will provide some of the wealth that is needed to bring that country the peace it so sorely needs. They could begin by sealing the borders of Iraq. But what kind of a situation will bring them to the table?


Here is what I envision

War on Oil


I would like this country to declare war. Not the kind of war we are used to. The kind of war we need to engage in is much more difficult. A war without blood and guts, but a war that will require real heroism.


The war we need to declare is the one against oil, oil, not the countries that produce it. How do we begin? First, use all of the present technology we have, and then go on from there.


Most of the steps we can, and must do will work over a long planning span, and I will mention them, but the steps we must take need to be immediate.

During WWII the allies were very successful at depriving the German military machine of its oil supply. The Germans began synthesizing oil from other sources. It was costly but it worked. With today’s technology we can do much better than the Germans did, and it would still be costly but compared to war it would be cheap. Moreover the results of our efforts would be a permanent part of our matrix of energy supply, and would be achievable on a basis that would be very competitive with the oil we buy from abroad. That’s what we could do immediately. The Middle East oil producers would see their major oil customer shrinking and work very hard to quell the instability inside Iraq.


Going forward we need to do many more things to bring down the usage by conservation, and here are some of them.



The best building codes in the country have heat transfer guidelines that are woefully lower than what we’ve known to be possible for at least 40 years. We must double the requirements on homes and commercial establishments. We can do this with no new technology. The additional cost of a $300,000 home is about $10,000. The annual savings is about $1575 estimated on a 700 gallon savings at $2.25/gallon. Payback will be less than 6.4 years. If the cost oil increases the payback period will be shorter.


Motor vehicles

At the same time double the required gas mileage on trucks and personal cars. At the moment the only technology that can achieve this is the Hybrid engine design. The cost of driving a car 20,000 miles that gets 21 miles per gallon, using gas that costs $2.80 per gallon is $2,667. Presently the hybrid costs about $3,000 more. The payback is less than 2.24 years if your gas mileage is raised to 42 miles per gallon, and maintenance costs are lower.


Electric Power


Electric power is wasted in this country in ways that other countries find hard to believe. The litany of possible improvements is enormous, but let’s starts with conservation.

Light Emitting Diodes (LED) use about 3% of the power that is used by an incandescent lamp. Presently they are suitable for traffic lights, exit signs, and numerous other 24/7 applications. (Traffic lights have four 150 watt lamps on at all times, that is 600watts 24 hours per day 365 days a year. The total kilowatt-hours per year are 5,256 @ 12cents /kWh costs the municipality $630 per traffic signal. The annual cost of operating an LED traffic lamp is $19 plus the cost of operating the controls about $18)

That’s one example but there are many.

Solar Photovoltaic Generation

Solar photovoltaic is still relatively expensive, but there are many applications for solar PV that does make sense right now, but if you put solar PV in a context of a war effort, that changes everything. With the building of a vibrant solar PV industry, advances in its use and new product development will come. In industrial parks on Long Island and throughout the nation there are millions of acres of rooftops suitable for collecting solar power.

Wind Generation

The advances in wind generation have been dramatic. We are now at the point where wind generation is only slightly higher in cost than the most economical fossil fuel plants.


Distributed Generation

Distributed generators are no more efficient than central station power plants. Their advantage is that they use the power they create on-site. That means there is no additional distribution line loses getting to the point where it is used. Therefore distributed generation is 11% more efficiently than central power production. There is an additional efficiency if the waste heat can be used for heating, laundry, and even cooling. And, of course, if properly designed, from failures to the power grid.


Development of super strong lightweight composites. The cost in fuel to move a vehicle is directly related the weight of the vehicle. Making lighter cars will further increase gas mileage. Lighter, but stronger materials in cars will also make them safer.

Developing a first class efficient rail system that will move people and freight at high speeds. A modern rail system made of super strong lightweight materials using MagLev technology will make the United States the leader in transportation systems. These transportation systems could be the next generation’s jobs as we produce this technology for the world.


The key to every advance the modern world has known has been tied directly to energy. The electrical power industry has been very instrumental to advancing the commercial industrial and educational, advances of America and every other nation on earth. Energy is the reason we live well and the reason we are vulnerable. We need to stop acting like victims.  We need to create the systems that will save this country from the unreliable dictators of the world, not by invading them, which hurts us as much as it hurts them, but making what they produce irrelevant to our survival.