You can feel it in the air. There is a growing sense of unease and even fear. People talk about it in coffee shops and while they’re waiting in line at the post office. Mention the price of gasoline and diesel fuel and you see something in their eyes that’s part anger, part fear, and part resignation.
People are starting to realize that the economy is very bad and isn’t going to get much better anytime soon.
Economist Paul Krugman says that the world is not heading for another Great Depression, we’re already in one. See the video here:
Krugman: We Are Already In A New Great Depression
Krugman notes that the “massive public spending” that was generated by WWII is what ended the Depression. He has been very vocal in his calls to ignore the debt levels right now in favor of government stimulus programs to attempt to jumpstart the economy.
I agree that we are in another Great Depression. I also believe that a war, even a world war, is (unfortunately) very possible before this depression ends. However, I believe there is a better way to end it than more Cash for Clunkers-type programs and more student loans. Those types of programs, which are an article of faith among Keynesian economists, have not been shown to actually solve anything in the long term. Organic economic growth is what brings nations out of recessions and depressions. Despite the best of intentions the government is not very good at generating organic economic growth. Most of the time governments are very good at stifling organic economic growth instead.
There is a way out of this mess that doesn’t involve sticking our granchildren with the debts we run up today. There literally is no more crucial issue to a nation’s progress than its energy and transportation economics.
What if we overhauled and redeveloped our energy production and distribution networks? Smart electric grids, wind generation, and solar can certainly be helpful, but America needs a transportation fuel source that’s cheap, clean, abundant. If it could be produced domestically for a very low price, that would be almost ideal.
We have one. Natural gas. Vehicles have been running on natural gas in places like Argentina and Pakistan for decades. If the economics of natural gas make sense in a third world country, they make sense here, too.
If the government would remove or restrain the hindrances of unnecessary regulations, and let Americans innovate unhampered by bureaucratic meddling and nest feathering, philosophical tyrannies, and political gamesmanship, we could rebuild America. We could fundamentally change the energy and transportation economics of our nation, and perhaps of our world.
Think of all that would need to be done. Pipelines would need to be laid, fueling stations would need to be built. Equipment would need to be manufactured to meet all of these needs. Other infrastructure would also need to be built. New dedicated natural gas and bi-fuel vehicles would roll off assembly lines in Detroit. Older vehicles would need to be converted to run on natural gas (and almost any vehicle can be made to run on natural gas.) New businesses would spring up overnight to begin building and installing all of these things.
Those are good jobs. Those sorts of jobs pay good wages and are dignified work that a man or a woman can be proud of. Those are jobs that generate wealth and allow a person to prosper and care for his or her family.
T. Boone Pickens has estimated that if we convert 20% of the vehicles on the road to run on natural gas, we wouldn’t have to buy another drop of OPEC oil. We could stop spending so much time, treasure, and geopolitical capital trying to keep the oil flowing from the Middle East unhindered. We could trim our military budget and bring our service men and women home to their families.
Natural gas is certainly not without its costs and drawbacks. Nothing is perfect. But it is a very, very good way to rebuild our country. We can beat the Second Great Depression, and we can do it with natural gas.