Self-Inflicted Wound


J.D. Pendry


It was an even numbered day.  My license plate ended with an even number so I was in line at the Fort Eustis, Virginia gas station.  I needed to fill up my 1966, Midnight Blue, Ford Fairlane 500.  Since the Arab oil embargo started, gas prices had jumped from 30 cents a gallon to 70.  A few months later, I was driving a Ford Pinto station wagon.  Four cylinders and some rubber bands powered it.  It had the power of a wind-up toy and I could feel every tiny irregularity on the road.  It was tough on my American muscle car psyche, but I was married and had to show some level of responsibility.  At least, that’s what the wife and politicians told me.  I didn’t pay much attention to politics in those days, but I do recall politicians railing on about how we must free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil.  It was 1973.


It’s de ja vu all over again.  My weekly 400-mile commute ended at its usual spot - the gas pump.  At $2.19 a gallon, that’s forty bucks a pop or more.  It’s a good thing my truck has a small V-8.  Pulling in to the pump, I shut off the engine.  The news on the radio had grandstanding politicians spending my tax dollars while pretending concern about millionaires eating steroids so they can hit 600-foot homeruns.  If steroids are a problem for high school athletes, then it should be high school coaches and parents listening to Congressional speeches camouflaged as legitimate hearings.  Better yet, spend my money solving problems that are more pressing.  Like eradicating the real drug scourge of methamphetamine or not buying oil from the Saudi “royal” family and Hugo “Fidel” Chavez.


Just so that you understand, gas prices are artificially low anyway.  If we adjusted the prices for inflation, we’d be paying around six bucks per gallon (I did read one estimate that said it would be $10.00).  Nearly 50 cents of the price of each gallon is taxes.  Taxes used to build stuff named for Senator Robert Byrd or conduct public show hearings about steroids.  Where would we be today if 50 cents from every gallon of gas purchased, since politicians decided in the 70’s that we needed to free ourselves from foreign oil dependence, went toward research and development for alternate fuel sources and tapping our own known oil resources?


The Senate voted, after 25 years of Post-Arab oil embargo haggling, to drill for the oil in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).  Estimates say 10.4 billion barrels of oil are there.  At current prices, it’s economically feasible to recover all of it.  That oil could have replaced what we’ve imported from Saudi Arabia over the past 30 years.  Even as things start rolling, we won’t see any oil from ANWR for 7-10 years.  ANWR, however, is just a drop in the proverbial bucket.  The estimate of US offshore oil reserves is around 75 billion barrels – but we ain’t after that either.


Did you ever hear of oil shale?  Sixty percent of the Earth’s oil shale is in the United States.  The estimates are that there is more than 2 trillion barrels of recoverable oil from shale right here. 


Oil shale development will diversify and increase

the supply of domestic energy.  The Nation’s

2 trillion barrel untapped oil shale resource

base could make a significant contribution

to our future mix of energy options.Strategic Significance of America’s Oil Shale Resource


That’s no typo – 2 trillion.  Enough barrels of oil to power North America and my F150 for more than 100 years.  In the 70’s, billions of dollars were spent to develop methods to recover this oil.  When we got serious about doing that, along with the Trans-Alaskan pipeline - guess what?  OPEC lowered oil prices making it economically unattractive to recover the shale oil.  Interpret that to mean that Americans would not have been willing to pay for it at the pump.  Cheaper Arab oil won - another example of choosing the easy way over the right way.  Technology has improved since the 70’s and there are now viable methods of recovering oil from shale – remember that 60 percent of it resides here in the US.  The magic price per barrel to make it economically viable is $30.00.  As I write this, the price per barrel exceeds $57.00.


We have the oil we need right here in America.  If our politicians would focus on an energy policy that gets it for us, we could put money in the pockets of Americans instead of Mullahs and dictators.  Why don’t you ask them about it?  Tell them JD sent you.




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J.D. Pendry is author of The Three Meter Zone, Random House/Ballantine.


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