Sen. Tom Harkin called in April for a mammoth, united effort to free America from its addiction to oil. It should be the clarion call for the political class in this country. Harkin says that with a national effort on the scale of putting a man on the moon or developing the atomic bomb, we could free ourselves from dependence on oil within the next 10 years.
Harkin, ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, says he wishes he had just one month of spending on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- $10 billion -- to devote to renewable energy research. Instead, we get $59 million, taken from other energy research.
If President Bush embraced the plan, his tanking approval ratings would soar.
Americans understand the connection between terrorism and oil. They believe innately in our nation's scientific and technological capability to conquer any problem.
"We can do this," Harkin says.
America would agree.
But it is tough to find visionaries who can seize on hope and America's essential can-do spirit. Maybe they remember how Jimmy Carter started down this road, and was done in by the oil cabal that allies US multinationals with Middle Eastern despots. But $3 per gallon gasoline -- count on it going higher yet -- has a way of focusing the public mind on the root of the problem.
Oil is a finite resource cast against infinite demand. We must find new energy sources, and find them quickly, if we are ever to free ourselves from the specter of terror.
Osama Bin Laden was first animated by American military presence in Saudi Arabia. That presence is necessitated by the inherent instability of the most important oil-producing region in the world. It is oil, not weapons of mass destruction, that drove us into Iraq the first time and the second time. It is oil revenue that feeds terrorist networks.