The Bush administration has placed an almost two-year moratorium on solar-energy projects on public land, citing a need for studies regarding “the environmental impact the solar projects will have on land in Arizona, Nevada, California and other western states,” Democracy Now! reported Monday.
Though the Bureau of Land Management cited “uncertain consequences” as the reason to halt the projects, the reason for the hold on solar energy is the same one that seems to be behind most powerful decisions in this country: money.
The dangers of gasoline usage are well known: rising gas prices are crushing the poor and middle class, emissions contribute to global warming and the power of the big oil lobbyists over the government’s decisions is strengthening and increasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, perpetuating a foreign policy based on bullying.
Despite these consequences, oil drilling on public land is occurring at record levels, with more than 44 million acres of land being leased for oil and gasoline development, according to the Wilderness Society. Meanwhile, the government sanctions a moratorium on solar energy because of “uncertain consequences.”
The bottom line is money.
The sun doesn’t discriminate. No one can limit where it shines, and no one can own it. People will not get better sunlight because they have nicer houses or live in richer neighborhoods. This makes solar energy unpleasant for a capitalist country like the United States. The sun provides unlimited resources and this cannot be controlled by corporations. They can’t make the kind of money from solar energy that they would off of other types of energy.
However, big oil companies are making significant profits.
In May, a Senate Judiciary Committee called some top oil executives to court and demanded statements of their personal net earnings. John Lowe, executive vice president of Conoco-Phillips, made more than $5.67 million. The same year, Peter Robertson, vice chairman of Chevron, made about $14.16 million, and J. Stephen Simon, senior vice president of Exxon/Mobil, made nearly $15.1 million. These numbers make it painfully clear that these oil executives are stealing from the American people to pollute the environment and maintain their power as puppeteers of the state.
The people of this country need to realize that gas is astronomically expensive because oil companies are robbing the American people, not because of a rise in the price of crude oil, and oil companies are getting away with it because they’re lining the pockets of those in power.
If this were an honest world, corporations would tell it like it is: “All we want is your money. We don’t care about your safety or your satisfaction as a customer, because if you have no choice but to buy our product, we’re going to get your money at any price.”
In an honest world, governments would also speak the truth: “We don’t care what you voted us in for, we serve the interests of money-making.”
It might be too much to ask oil executives to sacrifice some of their salaries to help the people who have given them so much business or to let go of a little bit of their power over the government to allow affordable alternatives to gasoline. Who knows, maybe $2 million a year isn’t enough for someone to live comfortably.
Or maybe it’s just not an honest world. But even in a dishonest world, people have breaking points. How that point manifests will depend on how long it takes the American people to realize they are being robbed and how long those in power let the tension swell. One thing is certain: That breaking point will come.
Maybe when today’s students are being looked up to by younger generations, they will be asked, “What did you do about big oil? What did you do about the abuses of power?”
The answers to those questions are still being written and will be determined by the decisions of those with the will to act.
Jose Ferrer is a sophomore majoring in sociology.