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April 4, 2011 8:51 pm

Energy and a Needed Czar

avatar by Ed Koch

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Photo: PRA

Like many other Americans, I simply do not believe the statements our government makes to calm us down during a catastrophe.

I can understand and accept — and believe others can as well — the  government not telling us all it knows.  There are a  host of reasons for keeping secrets, security of the nation being the primary one.  But, we must beware of deliberately false statements from government leaders and agencies.

During the 9-11 crisis and the rebuilding of downtown Manhattan, we were told primarily by the then Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Christine Todd Whitman that the air in the neighborhood of Ground Zero where the World Trade Center had been was safe for residents and those living in nearby areas.  The only official that I can recall who warned New Yorkers, particularly pregnant women not to remain  in,  or move to,  the affected area was Congressman Jerry Nadler.  I don’t know if we have ever had a final ecological and medical report on the effects of the polluted environment of lower Manhattan, and what, if any, adverse impact occurred on the population there following 9-11.  The danger when a layman like myself with no expertise on the subject speculates on the effects of contamination produced by the implosion of the two towers and the release of contaminants such as asbestos and heavy metals into the air, is that uninformed speculation might be added to the brew.  But without a universally accepted credible authority providing information, there will be such speculation.

Interestingly, today’s New York Post reported, “A city official for the first time is revealing a rise in cancer among firefighters who served at Ground Zero.”

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I suspect that very few people in Japan or worldwide believe we are getting the whole truth from our governments, particularly the Japanese government.  We know  that contaminants and radiation have been and are still being released, extending as far east as the American Atlantic coast.  We are constantly told by government spokesmen that whatever levels of contaminants and radiation there are in the air are not dangerous to human beings.  But we know that radiation is cumulative in effect, so if a plume – a descriptive word used in describing winds carrying contaminants and radiation – sits overhead for any period of time in a geographical area, there is an increasing exposure to the population below, before the plume moves on.

Similarly so with the milk and vegetables carrying the poisons of radiation which we drink and eat every day.  Aren’t they, too, accumulating?  What we desperately need is the appointment of a truly blue ribbon panel universally respected as free from government dictation and intellectually honest to examine all of the information and report to the American people, and quickly.

Remember, when the Japanese plant first exploded and Americans in Japan asked our government whether they should leave Japan, President Obama urged Americans to heed the advice of the Japanese government.  That was, I believe, not sound advice, since the Japanese government would certainly be reluctant to urge anyone to leave Japan. Today, I suspect Americans are told by our government they should leave Japan or at least send their children home to the United States.

I am in my 87th year and do not fear the effects of the Japanese devastation for myself, but I am fearful for America’s population, young and adult.  Shouldn’t we know the true dangers ahead?  The President should appoint that blue ribbon panel immediately.

No one has discussed that Japan may now have a swath of land from west to east that will be dangerous to cross, affecting if not closing, traffic from Tokyo to northern Honshu.  What will the economic impact be?

***

The New York Times had a superb article on March 31st assessing our response to the energy crisis we appear to be facing because of escalating oil prices and shortages resulting from the turmoil in the Mideast in Muslim countries, euphemistically described by the media as the Arab Spring.

The Times article describes our natural resources which include huge amounts of natural gas and coal with far smaller quantities of crude oil, as opposed to oil extracted from tar and sands which environmentally is subject to problems and danger to the environment.  Other resources described include nuclear energy, wind and solar resources and renewable sources using agricultural crops converting them to alcohol.  In addition, available in dealing with the energy problems are increased car gas mileage requirements set by the government and conservation.

Requiring all existing 18-wheel trucks to use natural gas instead of diesel fuel, I’ve been told, would reduce oil imports by half.  The cost of conversion for current trucks would be approximately $64,000 per truck. Why not mandate the change, providing subsidies if required and appropriate?  Why not require auto companies to only manufacture natural gas using trucks in the future?

President Obama points out that presidents before him starting at least with Nixon back in 1973 when OPEC embargoed oil to the U.S. and his successors have talked of energy self-sufficiency and while there have been improvements in our supplies and sources, we still are importing 50 percent of our oil from abroad.  Two countries that are truly friendly to us are Mexico and Canada.  Most of the others in the world cannot be counted on at all times and under all conditions to continue to supply us with oil.

I believe we can indeed become self-sufficient, but only if there is a true national effort directed by a czar appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate with the necessary financial resources and authority to get the job done.  Someone who would create a Manhattan Project and the think tanks needed.  Someone with the energy, ability and spine of steel needed.  Surely, the President can find such a person.

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