ZAGATA: Lessons On Oil Embargo Forgotten


Oil Embargo’s

Lesson Forgotten

In 1973, the Organization for the Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC) from the Middle East imposed an oil embargo on the United States.

Mike Zagata, DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and a former environmental executive for Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.

It had a crippling impact on our economy and on our way of life because we didn’t produce enough energy in this country to meet the demand. People waited in line for hours to buy a few gallons of gasoline and tempers flared. The same impact was felt on heating oil and the petroleum feed stocks used to manufacture nearly everything we used to maintain our lifestyle.

It was not a fun time, and our politicians vowed to never let us be put in that position again. There was a positive side to that crisis in that this event triggered a series of legislative initiatives aimed at increasing fuel efficiency, including getting more miles per gallon of fuel with our automobiles.

Fast forward to today and observe what is happening with the coronavirus.

Over 90 percent of the medicines/prescription drugs we use and need are made offshore – mainly in China and India.

We are again not self-reliant, and are at the mercy of foreign countries, one of which has vowed to overtake us and become the number one world economy.

Is that a good thing? No, it isn’t. How did it happen – again? It happened because our politicians let, possibly even encouraged, it to happen.

We knowingly entered into trade agreements favoring those countries and decimating our middle class as their jobs were sent offshore. Our President is working to reverse that trend, but not everyone is happy about that.

Some in the media actually called him a racist when he imposed, early on, a travel ban with China and other nations known to have the virus. That may have been the single most important step that could have been taken to reduce the impact of the coronavirus on our country.

However, once the current battle with the virus is won, we must not allow ourselves to again be at the mercy of foreign governments when it comes to healthcare and the medicines we need to combat the threats to our health.

Are we willing to take the necessary steps to assure that happens? Likely not, unless you demand it of those who represent you in the state and federal legislatures.

Guess what folks! We’re already priming the pump to let it happen again.

This time it will be with renewable energy and the batteries it takes to store that energy. Wind and solar energy are only produced when the wind blows and the sun shines, and that’s less than 50 percent of the time in Upstate New York. That means we must be able to capture the energy when it’s available and then store it so it can be available to use when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

We do that with lithium-ion batteries. Lithium is a rare-earth metal and where do you think it comes from. You guessed it – it comes from foreign countries like China, Russia and the Congo.

Do we really want to base our energy security on materials over which we have little control?

We did that once back in 1973 and it didn’t work out to our advantage. It’s time to remind our politicians of that and ask them to take the steps now that allow us to convert, over time, to renewable energy sources AND be able to store them for later use based on a technology that we control.

Doing otherwise is foolhardy and will, in the long run, prove to be a costly mistake.

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