Why Are We Determined to Repeat History?

I believe that Americans are the smartest and most innovative people in the world. If we weren’t how could we become the greatest economic, cultural, social and military superpower the world has ever seen? It puzzles me though why we sometimes refuse to learn from our mistakes. Case in point; energy independence; the oil embargos of the 1970s crippled our economy. Apart from creating the Strategic Petroleum Reserves, we did painfully little over the last 40 years to make sure that oil could not be used as a weapon against us. If anything, we made oil a more powerful weapon. In 1972, we imported 28% of our oil from foreign countries. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest figures (from 2009), 62% of the oil we consumed that year came from other nations.

In July 2008, OPEC reminded us of the power of oil as a weapon when the price of a barrel of oil reached $147. The tactics had changed from the 1970s – OPEC manipulated the supply to jack up the price versus imposing an outright embargo – but the results were eerily the same; Americans struggled to pay high gasoline and home heating oil prices, and America’s economy teetered on the brink of recession (our weakened economy would eventually be pushed over into the Great Recession by the collapse of the subprime housing market).

What was America’s response to the crisis? Nothing; or to be fair, we did nothing to increase our domestic production of oil and natural gas. In fact, the Obama Administration recently made oil an even more powerful weapon by banning oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico thereby shutting down another 11% of our domestic oil production. So, here we are in 2011 more heavily dependent on foreign oil than ever before and watching helplessly as the price of oil climbs towards $100 a barrel thanks to the unrest in Egypt.



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