Paper or switchgrass?

Would you like paper or switchgrass?

Oops. Sorry, that choice isn’t available. While switchgrass is under study as a potential fuel source, it is a long way from being widely practical. And while much is being said these days about achieving energy independence by exploiting alternate “renewable” energy sources, no one appears to be equating that with petroleum independence. While I’m no expert, the idea of using switchgrass to manufacture plastic bags doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

Plastic bags? Who cares about plastic bags? We can get away from them and help to “save the earth” by using cloth shopping bags. And plastic bags are easy to recycle. No problem.

Petroleum independence is another matter. Cloth shopping bags, especially mine with a rectangular plastic panel in the bottom, are manufactured using petrolueum. In fact, a list of petroleum-based items that we rely upon every day is too long to include here. Such lists are available online and I urge you to do a search on “petroleum uses” to put the topic into perspective. Any brief list printed here would serve only to make our reliance on petroleum appear to be less than it actually is.

No doubt chemists, engineers, designers, and manufacturers will create affordable substitutes for petroleum-based products, and certainly research on such alternatives is worthwhile and will continue. But it’s not going to be finished today or tomorrow.

It’s time, I believe, to separate the issues of energy independence and petroleum independence. The political left seems intent on using modest advances in alternative energy as an excuse to limit our accessing domestic petroleum resources. Their policy is no drilling here and not now, and they call the GOP the party of no.

The next time you hear a liberal refer to our “addiction to oil,” just ask if he/she means our addiction to antiseptics, antibiotics, bandages, ballpoint pens, clothing, guitar strings, hair coloring, lipstick, toothpaste, telephones, cds, etc. I know I said I wouldn’t include a list here, but couldn’t resist giving a sample.

Dwight Boud

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