Spin has become big business, and big business is spending a lot of millions buying a lot of spin. It's hard to know who's spending more — the energy companies, the health care industry, or Wal-Mart.

Cash-rich as they are, the energy companies of late have been buying a lot of PR aimed at convincing John Q. Public that they're just humanitarians at heart and will leave no stone, shale, ocean, or tundra undrilled to keep the oil and gas flowing.

They even pay lip service to alternative energy sources — all the while making little or no effort to make those fuels widely available.

Who can blame 'em? When you've got an infrastructure in place that reaches into every nook and cranny of daily life and generates billions in profit, why spend billions on a competitive production/distribution system?

At the same time, and despite all the millions they pour into political campaign coffers and Capitol Hill lobbying, they're scared that Congress, in an attempt to curb skyrocketing energy prices, may impose more taxes or price controls.

The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Industry, whoever they are, have been spending big bucks to run full-page newspaper ads around the country, urging readers to “tell Congress you oppose new taxes and price controls, because it's time for real energy policies, not old-fashioned energy politics.”

The fly in that ointment, however, is the absence of those “real energy policies.” It's mostly same-old, same-old, giving lip service to alternate energy while raking in the petroleum-based profits.

Thirty-odd years after the Arab oil embargo, we not only have not reduced our dependence on imported oil, we've doubled it, and were another embargo to occur tomorrow, or God forbid, a major terrorist disruption, we're in no better position to deal with it than we were in the 1970s. It would be chaos — again.

As one political wag observed, “The last work of fiction I read was George Bush's energy policy.”

The Department of Energy projects that U.S. energy needs will increase another 28 percent by 2030. “It's time,” the energy industry newspaper ads proclaim, “for energy policies that insure future generations have the energy they'll need at home and on the job.”

But … they're in the oil/gas business, and as long as they can continue wringing huge profits from those products, where's the incentive to develop competitive energies? Big oil hasn't exactly jumped at the opportunity to put pumps at their stations to sell E-85 ethanol-based fuel.

And while the ethanol boom has been an economic boon for U.S. corn growers this year, the bloom may be off that rose as the ethanol industry confronts an overproduction situation and prices are dropping.

The situation could become even more dicey if taxpayers start demanding to know why, in addition to high pump prices, they're spending billions to subsidize production of a fuel that almost nobody outside the Midwest can buy.

This country needs — has needed for more than three decades — to reduce its dependence on imported oil. Too bad we've not had the leadership and resolve necessary to do it.