Allan Topol is a partner in a large Washington-based international law firm. He has a science and engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon, and a law degree from Yale University. For almost 40 years, he has been involved in issues at the height of the Washington power structure.
He is also a national bestselling novelist, using the thriller genre to explore international geopolitical and military issues. His new novel, ENEMY OF MY ENEMY, dealing with an American pilot shot down over Eastern Turkey and Russian nuclear weapons, was released February 1, 2005.
His 2001 novel, SPY DANCE, is about a former CIA agent on the run and Saudi Arabian oil. His 2003 novel, DARK AMBITION, deals with the corruption of power in Washington and China's threatening posture toward Taiwan. In January 2004, his new novel CONSPIRACY was released dealing with a foreign leader's attempt to influence an American presidential election and the possibility of renewed militarism in Japan.
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May 4, 2005
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The pictures from President Bush's Texas home at the time of the recent visit by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah were disconcerting. The President was strolling hand in hand with the Saudi prince because that's the Arab custom among men who are friends. The trouble is that friendship wasn't the driving force for our President's effort to buddy up to Abdullah.
Instead, the American President was pleading for help to ease the price of oil. The leader of the world's most powerful nation was forced to assume the humiliating role of a beggar, because of the American energy mess now in its 35th year since the 1973 Arab oil embargo.
Bush's immediate objective at this meeting was to persuade the Saudis to pump more oil from their huge reserves that would lead, the President hopes, to lower oil prices and hence lower prices at the pump. The President's humiliation was pointless. All he received from Abdullah was an ambiguous, “We'll consider it.”
Even if Abdullah had agreed to increase Saudi pumping by ten or 20 percent, that would at most be a band-aid for a hemorrhaging wound. The real question is: how long will we, as a nation, continue to keep our head buried in the sand about energy.
From the President's point of view, it's easy to understand why he would do whatever it takes to push gasoline prices -- which are already close to $3 a gallon in some parts of the country. The American people may be divided about our military effort in Iraq or Senator Frist's nuclear option to eliminate the filibuster of judges, but a couple of top issues bring national unity: love of the automobile (the bigger the better), and our desire for low gasoline prices.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I could identify most automobile models before I knew what all the states were or who Pennsylvania's governor was. My life began at 16 when I got a driver's license like most of my friends.
Now, we're ready to hit the road with warm weather approaching. The President had better deliver some relief. If he does not, you can be sure that his approval ratings will plunge regardless of what happens in Iraq. Shiites and Sunnis step aside. The real action is at the gasoline pump.
Let's be fair to President Bush. He's not responsible for the problem. He did not create a situation in which the world's largest consumer of energy has been unable to build a single new nuclear power plant, while most of the developed world has gone the nuclear power route. Even the French obtain three quarters of their electricity from nuclear while we continue to burn fossil fuel.
Of course there are risks involved with nuclear power as with anything in life. Have you ever stopped to ask why we're the only major country in the world that refuses to deal with those risks? We've let a tiny minority of people hijack our national interest. This congress could end that situation, but its agenda is focused on other priorities that are heading congress toward legislative gridlock.
Then there are those gas-guzzling SUV's. Count them on the road or in a parking lot. The small car and even the sedan are becoming less and less visible.
All of these problems didn't develop in the last four years. But the current administration, like its predecessors, has refused to bite the bullet and propose a tough energy program calling for the building of nuclear power plants and real limitations on automobile consumption.
Instead, we keep hoping that somehow science will provide a solution in the form of hydrogen or some other exotic technology. So far, they are pie in the sky. But we continue to believe “time is on our side.”
Guess what? Time has now become our enemy on the energy issue. There has been one recent development that has exacerbated our situation. China and India have begun importing massive quantities of oil and natural gas. Our previously perilous situation is now spiraling downward.
Each American president since 1973 has managed to kick the can on energy, pushing the problem to his successor. At this rate, whatever social security payments we receive will all end up going for electricity and gasoline.
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