With sky-high gas prices, we should have listened ...In 1976 Jimmy Carter was President, interest rates were up to 21 percent and the OPEC nations turned off the oil spigots. We all sat in gas lines. At the time a barrel of oil cost between $10 and $12, and our energy dependency for imported oil was at 32 percent and growing. That same year my late father, Meldrim Thomson Jr., was governor of New Hampshire and he proposed "A Declaration of Energy Independence" to the National Governors Conference in Hershey, Penn.Unfortunately, they didn't heed his advice. Since then we have done little to lessen our dependence on foreign petroleum. Today we are 66 percent dependent on imported oil and we are paying a whopping $142 (as of June 27) per barrel of oil.In my opinion there is no other issue in the 2008 election more important than "energy independence." If any candidate for public office does not affirm a strong commitment to attaining this national imperative within eight years, do not vote for them. Yes, I said eight years; with real leaders we can do it sooner.In World War II we were brought to our knees on that terrible morning of December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, but we came together and we succeeded. We converted our auto plants to producing tanks and other hardware to fight the war. Together our best minds developed the bomb that ended WWII. We had the will to succeed.Today we need that same leadership and citizen commitment. Our elected officials must lead the way to energy independence or be removed from office this November. We must use every resource and means available to produce a wide variety of energy, starting with one of the safest: nuclear energy. The last nuclear plant constructed in the U.S. was over 30 years ago in New Hampshire when my father was Governor.We need new oil refineries; there hasn't been a new one built in more than 30 years. I am appalled that the majority of our elected officials will not allow us to drill in Alaska as well as off our own shores because of pressure from the extreme environmentalists. Meanwhile China drills for oil just 60 miles off the Florida coast next to Cuba.According to the Department of Energy, the U.S. has the world's largest known coal reserves, enough to last more than 200 years at today's consumption. Coal can be cleanly converted by a gasification process to a liquid fuel to generate electricity. We have new advanced wind turbines that have the potential to produce up to 20 percent of our electricity in the short term. Solar energy is a current reality and much underutilized. We should expand hydro and geothermal and add research dollars to study experimental sources. As a lifelong tree farmer, one energy source that is near and dear to me is wood - the ultimate renewable resource. New Hampshire is the second most heavily forested state in the nation. Converting wood fiber to fuel is a tremendous resource right here at hand.Energy independence is a must if we are to survive. Stop and think of the tens of thousands of new jobs it would create here instead of sending the billions of dollars overseas to countries that don't like us and would do us harm.Gov. Thomson warned us 32 years ago to become energy independent. I believe we have the know-how and the resources, but do we as a nation have the will to succeed?I hope we do! NHWhen Tom Thomson isn't running the family tree farm in Orford, he's carrying the torch for his dad's conservative politics.
This article appears in the September 2008 issue of New Hampshire Magazine