Locking gas caps were invented during the Great Depression as a preventive measure against scurrilous thieves who would siphon gasoline from unsuspecting car owners — and that was when gas was only 18 cents a gallon.
Factor in inflation, and that’s still only about $2.50 a gallon; 40 cents cheaper than I paid at the pump Monday.
At the 2012 Colorado Energy Summit held Monday in Golden at the Colorado School of Mines, foreign oil prices and finding alternatives to imported energy made for a heated topic. Making a campaign stop at the summit, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich blamed the high cost of gasoline on the “anti-American-energy” attitude of the Obama administration.
“A rational, serious American government would have a crash program for American energy. Our goal is to become so independent of the Middle East that we actually don’t care what they do,” Gingrich said. “[Our goal] is to ensure that no American president ever again bows to a Saudi king.”
Gingrich’s plan to do this is far from simple.
He declared his intention to, if elected, eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and replace it with a new “Environmental Solutions Agency,” with a brand-new staff who would have to have “as a first test, common sense.”
A baby wailed in the front row of the auditorium as he said this.
Gingrich also expressed his intent to open up federal land for energy examination, focusing on the far north. The federal government owns 69 percent of Alaska — jokingly, Gingrich reasoned, about 1½ Texases.
“You can give the environmentalists half of Texas,” he said. “They can pick their favorite glacier, their favorite polar bear, whatever they want.” And then, he said, the rest of that massive area could be opened up and explored for its oil and gas possibilities.
The baby cried again.
“We are a dynamic society of constant innovation. There is no peak oil. There is no peak gas,” Newt said. “Those are terms used by the left to justify telling the rest of us we have to have austerity so they can control our lives on behalf of a theory.
“You want to know when the economy’s going to start recovering? About 9 o’clock at night on Election Day when people figure out [Obama] is gone.”
When Gingrich left the stage to massive applause, so did half the auditorium, but the presentations continued and brought the discussions a little closer to home.
Tisha Schuller, president of Colorado Oil & Gas Association, explained several initiatives that have appeared over the past year from the state’s oil and gas companies.
“I’m particularly thankful that no one is wearing a sign that says 'frack you' taped to their forehead,” she said, laughing.
One such enterprise is Frackfocus.org, a hydraulic-fracturing disclosure registry, where every chemical in every well is listed site-by-site. While the registry has been voluntary for the past year, it will be mandatory as of April 1 to add a new layer of transparency and safety to the hydraulic-fracturing process.
Also, a voluntary baseline water-sampling program has been installed throughout the state. Schuller says 93 percent of drilling companies participate in this program, helping ensure the quality of groundwater before and after drilling.
“Technology has transformed the potential for our country to have a domestic, secure, environmentally responsible supply of energy,” Schuller said.
When Sen. Rick Santorum took the stage, he echoed some of Gingrich’s statements about a “war on fossil fuels” from the current administration.
“[The President] looks at this as a problem, a problem that we have to get around and create alternative sources because we can’t be burning things that come out of the ground,” Santorum said.
“I see it as one of the greatest assets of wealth that we have.“
Santorum encouraged turning over federal lands to the private sector to allow for proper land management.
“We were put on this earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely — but for our benefit, not for the earth’s benefit,” he said. “We should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create.”
But Santorum’s main appeal was for the upkeep of the standard of American life. He shared what he called his “Made in the USA” plan, providing an emphasis on American-grown energy and on keeping jobs in America.
“Be careful what you wish for when you give the government power and authority over you,” Santorum advised.
The line to shake his hand after the event was longer than the line for the restrooms.
The Republican caucuses are being held tonight; participants can find their location here.
You probably won't hear any candidate prompting a return to the days of locking gas caps, but the main question left from Monday’s summit remains: Which Commander-in-Chief contender would best serve the energy sector of our state?
I'll consult my favorite polar bear and let you know.