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We need to stop depending on OPEC

by John G. Miller

MANAGING EDITOR

The other day I almost caused an automobile accident when I stopped quickly in front of a local convenience store.

To my disbelief, gas was only $1.42 a gallon. I quickly made a lane change, a drop-dead stop and a high-speed acceleration to make sure I didn't miss the great deal.

I wasn't alone.

While it seems like only yesterday that gas was around $1.08 per gallon, most gas pumps in the area are now reading $1.48 or more for regular unleaded. And that's the cheap stuff.

While the high prices are taking a bigger chunk out of our paychecks, the major concern shouldn't be the short-term effect on our wallets.

The United States' dependency on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, fondly known as OPEC, puts us in a precarious position.

The impact of OPEC's recent decision to curtail production is obvious. What if OPEC turned the nozzle down to just a drip?

As Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, so vividly pointed out in a guest commentary in last Sunday's Exponent & Telegram, the 11 countries that make up OPEC produce more than 40 percent of the world's oil and 55 percent of the oil purchased by the U.S.

Despite claims after the oil embargo of the 1970s that we would make sure it wouldn't happen again, we are more dependent today than we were back then.

And the disturbing part is that Murkowski, who is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, blames our own government for limiting the domestic oil industry.

He pointed out in the article that in efforts to protect the environment, we've limited oil exploration off most of our coastline, have fewer rigs in operation today than we did in 1990 and store less in reserve.

While I applaud most environmental efforts, I agree with Murkowski, who believes there must be efforts to find a balance between environmental production and self-sufficiency

In some cases, we have allowed ourselves to become enslaved to OPEC in the name of protecting the environment. But if we don't head off this trend, some day we won't be in the financial position to continue environmental protection efforts at all.

We are making a grave mistake if we continue to be so dependent on foreign countries for the majority of our oil. We have the technology available to increase our own oil production as well as explore alternative fuel sources that may be more environmentally friendly.

Murkowski said his home state does an excellent job of developing oil sites with the least amount of environmental impact.

We need to look to Alaska to increase our oil development efforts and also encourage other promising sites. Why should we sell our efforts short while continuing to pump money into economies of some countries that have been anything but allies?

I know as we continue into the 21st century there will be more and more development of the global economy. But the U.S. must make sure that its own economy remains strong so that we continue as a major player.

Efforts to increase oil production, as well as alternative fuels, are essential to our continued economic development. That should be, first and foremost, the goal of our government.

John G. Miller is the managing editor of the Exponent and Telegram. His columns appear every Saturday and Sunday. He can be reached at 626-1473 or by e-mail at cpcnews@earthlink.net.

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