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I like fossil fuels and nuclear power 

No, it isn't a joke, no punchline here. I really do like fossil fuels and nuclear power, and I fully support offshore drilling. I believe that the feds should declare our energy resources a national asset, including offshore deposits of oil and gas and usurp the power of state and local government to obstruct their extraction and development. I would include the ability of state and local government to restrict the development of onshore infrastructure to support these activities. The same goes for nuclear power and all that entails.

Before you have a coronary, I am not now nor will I ever be seeking any public office. However, I do hope to corrupt the minds of the younger generation by persuading them they've been sold a bill of goods about the dangers of the above sources of energy. Their future depends upon rejection of the "common knowledge" regarding why we should forego fossil fuel development and rely upon future alternative energy sources.

I grew up in an industrialized area in an era when large-scale industrial projects were the norm. We celebrated the factories, the mechanization, and the larger-than-life projects that promised a better future. The 1964 World's Fair, which I attended, included many such projects and offered hope to humanity that we could address the endemic poverty of much of the world and raise global standards of living. The space program initiated by the Kennedy presidency was a hallmark of the time. A friend and I spent many a hot summer day at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Paterson Air Force Base, where visitors could operate a model space shuttle. A favorite film of mine at the time was Thunder Bay with Jimmy Stewart as a wildcatter oil man attempting to build the first offshore oil platform off Louisiana. Naturally, some locals were certain his oil platform would destroy the fishing grounds upon which they depended. The movie ending worked it out more or less. Today, there are about 3,000 offshore oil/gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico benefitting millions.

That began to change in the late 1960s when a new message of anti-growth took hold. In 1971, the Club of Rome released The Limits to Growth, which declared as scientific fact that the world would run out of oil/gas by 1992/93, including all gold, silver, tin, zinc, and lead.

Author Paul Ehrlich, who wrote The Population Bomb in 1968, said in a 1971 speech that "by the year 2000, the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people."

In 1974, a generation of inexpensive energy came to a sudden stop as foreign oil producers quadrupled the price of oil virtually overnight for political reasons. We were bombarded with messages of imminent shortages and economic malaise. Long lines at gas stations were normal, a national 55 mph speed limit was imposed and everyone got depressed and stopped going to the movies (until Rocky came out, promising hope).

President Carter was elected in 1976 and promoted the idea that the American era of prosperity was at an end and we'd all have to start wearing cardigan sweaters in July. The anti-nuclear movement was gaining ground and by the end of the decade, the movie The China Syndrome and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident seemed to doom nuclear power to the dustbin of history.

Fast forward to today, past the naysayers of just 15 years ago declaring the end of oil and America is sitting on the precipice of energy independence, if we choose to be. California in particular is sitting on a subterranean ocean of oil and gas. Worried about public employee pensions? The resources beneath your feet could rebuild the pension system, fully fund education, and rebuild the state's infrastructure without a dime of further tax increases. Skilled people would be coming to California instead of leaving as 600,000 did last year. We have lots of immigrants, true enough, but far too many are undereducated and have few marketable skills, also making up the bulk of the 20 percent of the nation's welfare roll who reside in California. The super rich do well as they always do, but the middle class has largely had enough; they're leaving.

Those who promote alternatives refuse to accept that 97 percent of California's transportation energy comes from fossil fuels and will do so indefinitely, unless coercive public policies are adopted statewide that will inflict massive hardship on the middle and working classes of California. Government will tell you where to live, what job you may or may not have, how much energy you may consume, and if and when you may travel. We'll be just like Cuba; isn't that exciting?

The greatest disservice to the truth is the promulgation of imminent climate disaster caused by greenhouse gas emissions. It's a cornerstone of virtually all California public policy regarding resource use and is impoverishing the state. There is a correlation between the use of fossil fuels and the quality of life, even life expectancy, especially in the Third World, of which California may soon be the newest member. I'll extol the benefits of all of my favorite sources of energy in the future, providing, of course, I haven't been permanently exiled from the planet. Δ

Al Fonzi is an Army lieutenant colonel of military intelligence who had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor atclanham@newtimesslo.com.

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