Our View

Editorial Board

Rising prices show need for fuel fix

We will continue to be plagued with unpredictable fuel prices as long as we rely on our current energy system. As the price of gas not only flirts with, but surpasses the $2 mark, our energy woes have become clear. Our energy system needs a complete overhaul.

Our economy is based on technology that was invented more than a century ago. We take fossil fuels, mainly gasoline, and burn them, producing small explosions. The process, though more refined, produces more than energy. There are pollutant byproducts.

The U.S. government needs to put large amounts of funding into alternative fuel sources, namely hydrogen fuel cells, which have shown much potential. It’s hard to argue against using a fuel that produces nothing more than energy and pure water. But the private sector has no incentive to put money into alternative fuel research and development. They make a profit with the current system. If the government either subsidizes research or provides tax breaks for companies that do, there will be an incentive for change. Think about funding for putting a human on the moon.

With the current hydrogen fuel cell technology, we have only been able to get hydrogen fuel from fossil fuels, namely crude oil. But with continued research, we will some day be able to get the hydrogen from water — a plentiful resource. This switchover will make us less reliant on unstable countries, where we get much of our crude oil. A different energy source will make the United States more secure.

The unpredictable nature of crude oil prices hurts our economy. The market does not like uncertainty. It prevents businesses from making investments and stunts economic growth. A stable alternative energy source enforces a stable market.

The changeover to another energy source will take time. So during the transfer, the United States needs to concentrate on conservation and efficiency. No matter what the doomsayers spit out, oil reserves are not near death. But the uncertainty should be enough to spur us into conserving what we have. The industry has the ability to make more efficient engines, especially on SUVs. The government could help spur efficiency by raising CAFE standards, which involve the required miles per gallon for vehicles.

America prides itself on freedom. We love driving cars on the open road and taking road trips whenever we please. Though the alternative fuel source will allow us to keep our basic system, we need to bolster our public transportation system. This includes railways, bus lines, subways and planes.

Driving a car is expensive. With the increase in gas prices, there are ways to beat the bite from our wallets. Ride PARTA or a bike whenever you can. Walk. And it’s always a good idea to carpool.

It’s time we put our energy into the future rather than our current archaic system.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board, whose members are listed to the left.