As if this country didn't have reasons galore to support an all-out alternative energy effort, the recent circuses surrounding the appearances of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the United Nations only amplified the need.

It says something for the state of the world that two guys, who would be no more than obscure minor-nation government hacks were it not for their vast oil resources, can come before a global forum and prance about in the media spotlight, insulting U.S. leaders and acting as if they were political visionaries.

Between them, they control a good chunk of the world oil supply and rake in billions of dollars that we and other nations pay for that oil. Ahmadinejad, whose country is the fourth largest oil producer, smiles coyly and plays a cat-and-mouse game with the threat of his country's nuclear program, while Chavez, whose country is the fifth largest oil producer, spouts idiocies and can't even keep order within his own borders.

That the two have become allies in an effort to thwart the influence of the U.S. in the Mideast is even more disturbing. If this Mutt and Jeff team should scheme, for whatever reason, to tighten the oil spigots, it could send yet more shockwaves through world economies.

Over 30 years after the Arab oil embargo nearly brought this nation to its knees, as we've subsequently endured one supply crisis after another, and have watched prices go up and up and up, we are now more dependent than ever on imported oil. This year alone, it is estimated the Mideast nations will realize nearly $350 billion in oil revenues.

Much too late in the game, the U.S. is still in thrall to petroleum, and despite all the rhetoric and political grandstanding about ending this country's “addiction” to imported oil, we're making little more than a token effort to resolve the situation by developing consistent, reliable alternate energy supplies.

One would have thought it was Christmas, birthday, and the Easter Bunny combined over the last couple or three weeks as gas prices fell below $2.25. Hardly a TV news show aired that didn't feature a motorist at the pump, exulting over the price drop (those who wondered if it might have something to do with upcoming elections were, of course, only churlish malcontents).

So, reverting to our Mad Magazine Alfred E. Neumann “What — me worry?” mode, we fill our tanks with “bargain” gasoline and are once more lulled into complacency, giving nary a thought to how vulnerable we are to the next Mideast crisis, or the caprices of despots and crackpots like Ahmadinejad and Chavez, or the hundreds of billions of dollars we've spent militarily trying to protect our interest in Mideast oil.

It is a sad commentary that more than three decades have gone by since this need was so forcefully made apparent, and that this country has not been able to muster the will and commitment to do whatever was necessary to insure that our vital energy needs would not be left to the whims of those who hate us.