This week I had one of those moments that puts everything in perspective and reminds you what’s really important in life. I had the pleasure of attending my grandson Robert’s fifth birthday party. We had a pool party with all of his friends, and I gave him a birthday card with a dinosaur on it, because Robert and I share the same passion for dinosaurs.
We had fun, and of course, we had to assure Robert’s sister, Maggie, that we would have an equal amount of fun when she turns seven in October.
But as a grandfather, Robert’s birthday party reminded me of how precious life is and how real some of the things we’re watching on the television are.
In addition to attending my grandson’s party in Atlanta, last week I traveled to Chicago, Las Vegas, New York and California. And as I met with people around the country, it is clear that there is a hunger for clarity. People are watching television, and they are really bothered. They are bothered by what they are seeing in Iraq and in Southern Lebanon.
Paying for Iranian Aggression — at the Pump
Here is something else that is bothering Americans I spoke to: high gas prices and the notion that our enemies are profiting from the higher prices we pay at the pump.
Think about it. On July 11, the price of a barrel of crude oil was $74.16. That was the day before Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, which sparked the latest fighting in Lebanon.
Three days later, after the fighting began, the price of a barrel of oil was $77.03. That’s a $2.87 increase.
Now, Iran exports 2.7 million barrels of oil a day. That means if the price of oil stays the same, that $2.87 increase will amount to almost $3 billion more a year for the Iranian dictatorship.
That’s $3 billion more to spend on rockets for Hezbollah, militias in Iraq and on their nuclear program. Which, by the way, nobody is paying attention to now because of the fighting in Lebanon that Iran almost certainly instigated.
So the dictator of Iran is getting the best of both worlds: He gets to attack Israel by funding Hezbollah, and he gets to make all his money back — and then some — from our pocketbooks.
Energy Independence: Time to Cut off the Dictators
We can do better than this. It’s a dangerous world, but I am absolutely convinced that even though we have challenges we also have enormous opportunities.
I’ve been talking to scientists about the opportunities for expanding alternative energy supplies here at home so that we can produce more affordable energy in America rather then have to rely on Saudi Arabia and Venezuela for our energy needs.
What I have been learning is extremely encouraging. I mentioned last week that I was sending my research director, Vince Haley, on a week-long trip to Iowa and Minnesota to visit with some of the leading pioneers in this new energy economy — think of it as the emerging Silicon Valley for energy. Well, this week he is back with his report.
Vince received briefings from both Robert Brown, director of Iowa State University’s Bioeconomy Initiative and Richard Hemmingsen, director of the University of Minnesota’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, two of the leading academic centers at the forefront of research and development for the new energy economy. He also visited a soy diesel plant, a wind farm, a hydrogen engine manufacturer, a biomass energy conversion facility, and a manufacturer of biomass furnaces.
Vince’s bottom-line impression from his trip is that there is an enormous amount of entrepreneurial creativity taking place in the Midwest, and it holds forth the tantalizing potential of dramatically transforming our energy economy. While current bio-renewable programs will not replace our use of oil in the near future, they clearly offer the promise of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, improving our environmental quality, and transforming the rural economy into a much more prosperous zone of American economic activity.
These are some of the themes I will be covering with Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack at a Renewable Fuels Dialogue on August 12 at the Iowa State Fair. I’m looking forward to this event, because I believe there is a remarkable amount of common ground between the political parties on energy issues and I believe that by having a frank, open dialogue on energy with Gov. Vilsack, a Democrat, we can demonstrate to all watching that by working together we can achieve a safer, cleaner, and more affordable energy future for all Americans.
(Also, I hope all those in the area will join me for a breakfast meet-and-greet in Des Moines on Saturday, August 12, before the energy dialogue. For RSVP details, click here.)
Is Hezbollah Winning the Information War?
We also have another opportunity — one we are currently squandering — to go on the offensive against our enemies in the irreconcilable wing of Islam in the war for public opinion.
In the conflict between Israel and the terrorist group Hezbollah, we are witnessing an effective information offensive by Hezbollah and its allies that has us losing the war for the hearts and minds of the world.
Hezbollah refuses to follow the international rules of war. It consistently targets civilians in Israel and promotes civilian deaths in Lebanon by hiding amongst the Lebanese population. By design, Hezbollah is indistinguishable from the Lebanese civilian population because they dress like civilians — and not like soldiers, as required by international law. And yet Hezbollah and its allies in the media and elsewhere have successfully portrayed any and all civilian casualties in this conflict as entirely Israel’s fault.
Yesterday’s accidental killing of innocent civilians in the Lebanese town of Qana is a case in point. Israel had information indicating that Hezbollah was using this area as a base of operations to fire rockets into Israel. And the Israel Defense Forces repeatedly leafleted this area urging civilians to leave. The civilian deaths there are a great tragedy — one for which Israel has expressed its regret — but they are a tragedy of Hezbollah’s making, not Israel’s. It would serve no strategic purpose for Israel to target civilians, but in the cruel and callous calculus of Hezbollah, these civilian deaths — for which Hezbollah is responsible — actually do serve Hezbollah’s strategic purposes by encouraging the world to urge Israel to use more “restraint” while Hezbollah continues its missile attacks specifically targeted against Israeli civilians.
So my question is this: Where is the American strategic information campaign that educates our country and the world about Hezbollah’s illegal tactics? Why haven’t we and the Europeans proposed a resolution in the United Nations calling on Hezbollah to move out of civilian populated areas and demanding that they wear military uniforms to identify themselves as combatants and distinguish themselves from innocent civilians? We should use every opportunity to highlight Hezbollah’s appalling encouragement of Lebanese civilian deaths in order to win the war for world opinion. Our mantra should be “disarm Hezbollah, evict the Syrians and Iranians, and return Lebanon to the Lebanese government’s control.”
Send Me Your Questions
A lot of folks have talked to me about comments that I’ve made about our being in the early stages of a Third World War. On my website — Newt.org — we’re going to post a series of questions and answers regarding this conflict. If you have questions about it, I hope you’ll send them to me at email@example.com because this is a very important conversation. Only if we look at the entire reality — from North Korea to Iran and Iraq to what’s happening here at home — will we understand how big and how complicated these challenges are.
Which brings me back to the moment I had at my grandson Robert’s birthday party.
It was a very strange and bittersweet moment. On one hand, I was enjoying watching the children splashing in the pool on a sunny day — Atlanta at its best. And on the other, I was thinking about children in other places — places we’re watching on television — who are living under the constant threat of violence and death.
To me, it is the security of these common people that the conflict we are witnessing in the world today is all about. It’s about real people who want to live lives of happiness in peace. Real people who want to get married and have children and who want to live out their retirement years in safety and prosperity. It’s about a world in which, sadly, some people are prepared to kill the innocent and commit the most horrendous of deeds in order to impose their dark vision on the rest of us.
So I’ll leave you this week with this request: Think about your children and grandchildren and all of your loved ones. Think about your neighborhood and ask yourself: Aren’t our children and grandchildren worth protecting? Aren’t our neighborhoods worth protecting? And isn’t it important that we do all that we can to defend our way of life, not only for ourselves, but for all those whom we love?
I’m confident I know what your answer will be.
P.S. – If you haven’t yet had the chance, go to my website and read a remarkable essay by Israeli Rabbi Daniel Gordis about the war between his country and the Hezbollah-Hamas-Iran-Syria terrorist alliance. Here is just a taste:
“This is a different kind of war, and an old kind of war. In the last war, when they blew up buses and restaurants and sidewalks and cafes, Israelis were enraged, apoplectic with anger. This time, it’s different. Rage has given way to sadness. Disbelief has given way to recognition. Because we’ve been here before. Because we’d once believed we wouldn’t be back here again. And because we know why this war is happening.”
You can read the entire essay here.
Each week, this newsletter features questions from its readers. Have a question? Send an email to Newt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Nuclear power is misunderstood and opposed by many Americans and their political leaders … where do you stand on the future of nuclear power in the U.S.?
A: Thanks for the question Jim. I actually just recorded a “Winning the Future” radio commentary on the subject for broadcast this week. My central message is that expanded nuclear-power production deserves a long overdue second look.
A lot has changed since the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl tipped public opinion against nuclear power. Today, we know a lot more about how to build and operate safe nuclear reactors. In fact, France actually gets 80 percent of its power safely from nuclear energy. By contrast, in the United States, we only get 20 percent, and that is about to steadily decrease.
The federal government hasn’t given permission for a new nuclear power plant to be built in 30 years. At the same time, our current, decades-old nuclear power plants are nearing their decommissioning dates. An article in the New York Times Magazine (free registration required) points out that, unless we start building new plants soon, nuclear power will “effectively be extinguished as an energy source by around 2050.”
But there is good news and reason to be optimistic about the future of nuclear power in the United States. That same New York Times Magazine article highlights some environmental groups and leaders who are now embracing nuclear power as a solution to generating clean power. Unlike coal or gas, nuclear power plants produce electricity without any emissions or, therefore, greenhouse gases. It is a natural choice for environmentalists committed to clean air — a position that all but the most radical environmentalists are likely to adopt.
In addition, it has become increasingly obvious to most Americas that an over-reliance on foreign oil compromises our national security and the security of our allies. As I discussed above — and it bears repeating — our enemies have discovered that the more they can destabilize the world, the richer and more dangerous they become. For example, it is virtually certain that Hezbollah kidnapped the Israeli soldiers at the direction of Iran to reignite a conflict which would, in turn, drive up the price of oil, allowing Iran to buy even more rockets for Hezbollah to fire at Israel, as well as to obtain far deadlier weapons — including weapons of mass destruction.
In the short run, destabilizing the Middle East works to their financial advantage, as long as they are not held to account. So the bottom line on energy and national security is that the sooner we can break our over-reliance on oil, the sooner we can escape our vulnerability to regimes that export their oil wealth in the form of terrorism. This is a very tall order. But the first step is for American ingenuity to lead the way in the expanded development of economically viable, carbon-free and carbon-neutral sources of energy, such as bio-renewable fuels. It also means a proven model such as nuclear power is one of the best ways that we can diversify our energy sources.
That’s why I’m optimistic that clean, reliable and inexpensive nuclear power will increasingly become a more attractive option for America.