My work takes me a few days a week through Monroe County, Michigan, and I usually prefer a quiet drive along the county roads over a trip on the interstates. I pass the power lines pictured on the left on each leg of the journey, and I sometimes let my eyes wander off the road in appreciation of the symmetry of the lines and poles as they fade into the distance.
The naturalist in me dislikes the intrusion of technology into outdoor settings, but I have to admit there also lurks within me a latent mathematician who appreciates geometric proportionality and balance. My wife, who is the practicing mathematician, prefers randomness in designs, and when we plant flowers, I like orderly rows while she prefers look of natural unpredictability.
These lines would normally carry electricity generated by the Fermi II nuclear plant, but the plant is currently undergoing refueling and maintenance. Our civilization is highly dependent upon the consistent supply of electric power, and high-voltage lines are like society's arteries and capillaries.
I also read with interest yesterday the report by the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which indicated that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. This report, of course, contradicts the World War III scenario promulgated by President Bush six weeks ago.
Today the President is sticking to his previous assertions about Iran.
"What's to say they couldn't start another covert nuclear weapons program?" Bush asked reporters. "I still feel strongly that Iran's a danger. Nothing's changed in this NIE that says, okay, why don't we just stop worrying about it. Quite the contrary."
I am not sure if the President is attempting to diminish the significance of the NIE report as a face-saving measure, or if there are sinister plans afoot to proceed with military action against Iran in spite of the "great discovery" of new intelligence.
Iran, despite possessing the world's second-largest reserves of oil and natural gas, is a net importer of energy. Internal demand for electricity and hydrocarbon fuels consistently outpace production, and the Iranian government is forced to subsidize energy costs for consumers.
One of the reasons that Iran's electrical and petroleum refining production lags behind demand is that the United States enacted legislation prohibiting US firms and their foreign subsidiaries from conducting business with Iran. Thus, the Iranians face sanctions that inhibit them from improving non-nuclear energy production, while they face even more sanctions (and possibly a military attack) if they pursue a domestic nuclear energy program.
As I look at the power lines that crisscross my neighborhood, I recognize that I was fortunate to be born in a land where there is sufficient energy to be able to support my electrified world. I also think that it is time to end the counterproductive policies that interfere with Iranians to enjoy some of the same privileges as the rest of the developed world.