News - Kill a road for the U.S. war effort

There’s one thing Roy Barnes can do to help our boys in combat

Dear Gov. Barnes,

You’re smart enough to realize that our nation’s oil addiction is near the root of our Middle East problems. And you’re smart enough to know that your Northern Arc highway would increase the amount of oil consumed in Georgia.

So, I’ve got an idea for you: Do the patriotic thing and don’t build that un-American boondoggle across metro Atlanta’s suburbs. You’d become a hero — like some sort of Rudy Giuliani taking on gas-guzzlers.

Yeah, I know it would be difficult to stand up to the big-time campaign contributors you figure you’ll need to get re-elected. After all, road builders, developers, banks and trucking companies do expect something special in exchange for their $2,000 contributions.

But there’s been a lot of talk across this land lately about sacrifice. And you and I can agree that, just like our men and women in uniform, the fat cats ought to give something back to their country. So, in case you have trouble convincing your contributors to let you off the hook, just appeal to their sense of duty. Try this line of reasoning:

As we buy bigger SUVs and build highways further and further from where they’re actually needed, our oil addiction is worsening. We now use one-fourth of the world’s oil though we’re less than 5 percent of the population. According to the Energy Information Association, we import 2.5 million barrels a day from the Persian Gulf (versus a million barrels 27 years ago).

Our dependence on Persian Perrier is why we let a corrupt Saudi regime repress its people, brew violent dissent and turn a blind eye toward its own citizens’ support of terrorists. It’s why we bailed out Kuwait’s nasty regime in the Gulf War 10 years ago. And it’s why we still have troops in the Gulf region — a situation that has become the main obsession of Osama bin Laden and his band of murderers.

They’ve got us over a barrel — really billions of barrels — and we’ve got to do something about it!

Anyway, Roy, that’s what I’d tell them.

Weaning Americans off the oil habit isn’t a high priority these days in Washington. Oilman Dick Cheney’s first priority was to devise an energy plan that killed the previous VP’s promising pet project to help Detroit come up with more energy-efficient cars. The White House even lobbied against requiring vehicles to raise their miles per gallon, even though a jump in the mpg would save 2.5 million barrels a day in oil. (That’s as much as we’re getting from the Persian Gulf and twice what even oil industry barons say we’d get for a few short years from drilling up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.)

But even the Bush Administration finally is starting to talk about conservation. Last week, the same energy secretary who last spring opposed more efficient cars held a press conference urging more people to buy them.

If even the White House is encouraging conservation, shouldn’t you take some of your own steps to strengthen our country? Right now, I’m not criticizing you for wanting to pay for the $2 billion Northern Arc by borrowing money and putting taxpayers in debt. And I’m not railing over the state’s own studies, which show the highway would worsen Atlanta’s already bad pollution.

No, the thing that really ticks me off right now is that this stupid road is unpatriotic. The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority says it would jack up metro driving by 1.48 million miles a day by 2010, certainly a lot more later. Egad, that’s a lot of barrels from the Saudis.

Back when you were elected, I thought you were trying to solve Atlanta’s sprawl problems. You created GRTA. You talked big about commuter rail and air pollution. You got a lot of nice national press for that.

Since then, you’ve really disappointed me. You were slow in following through after creating GRTA. You proposed funding a ton of “developmental” — i.e. unneeded — highways. And now you’re using all the might of your office to sink Georgia taxpayers into debt for a project that will weaken the nation.

But you haven’t lost me, Mr. Governor. I know you can’t parachute into Afghanistan to assassinate bin Laden. But you could make up for your backsliding by killing that highway. Then, you’d be a hero again. Better, in my book, than Giuliani.

Yer pal,


Ken Edelstein is editor of Creative Loafing.??

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