Sunday, December 16, 2007

Natural Resources

Over the weekend, I was struck by the similarities between our energy situation on a national level and our water situation on a state level. Consider this:

  • Both water and oil are in short supply right now, causing politicians and others to advocate all sorts of silly solutions. On one side are the conservers, who focus only on using less of said resource. Using more will harm the environment. On the other side are the suppliers, who want more at all costs, and are willing to do anything to bring more that resource to the economy.
  • Our economy, at least in Georgia, will not run without ample supplies of both. Everything, from our farms to our factories to our electricity depends on oil and water.
  • Others will fight for them. Alabama and Florida are fighting us in court for water. All kinds of countries will fight for oil and energy, and these skirmishes will get worse in the future as prices go up and industrialization proceeds in other nations.
  • We ignore our dependency until forced not to. We then hem and haw about fixing "it," but then either the drought breaks or costs go down and we ignore it.
While oil and water repel each other when combined, the similarities to our debates about their use and their impact on our economy are remarkable.

Frankly, we use way too much of both. But my broader point in this post is that a strategy that advocates only one approach (for example, conservation and not more exploration) won't cut it in either case. We need to store more water. We need more reservoirs. We also need to use a lot less. Same for oil. In fact, I believe the one of the two greatest threats to our country is our lack of energy independence. We need to prepare for the future, and take our medicine in small doses by becoming less reliant on oil, or someday someone will force us to take the whole dose, and it will be very painful for our economy.

Georgia is in a similar situation with water, and has been for a long time according to today's AJC, which quotes former Oconee County Commission Chair Wendell Dawson. We need to implement a plan now, and it needs to involve more reservoirs. But it also needs to address growth; egregious usage needs to hit people -- including homeowners -- in the pocketbook. We need to mandate low-flow everything and all sorts of water saving strategies. Not because it won't start raining again, but because eventually, there will be another drought. And even if there isn't, Georgia will continue to grow, and we will need the water. And who knows, we might just lose that legal battle with Florida and Alabama. Lets take a little medicine now instead of dealing with the disease down the road.

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