Like most Americans I have watched with interest (and a healthy dose of cynicism and dismay) all the venom being vented by groups in favor of and opposed to our latest healthcare legislation.

I understand the basics of both arguments, but wonder whether the same folks who support it would be opposed to it had their party been the sponsoring party and driving force behind getting the legislation passed. The cynic in me says that blatant party politics being what they are, the answer is probably yes.

A friend of mine recently returned from England. He, the friend, is in favor of the healthcare bill and healthcare reform. He says the most often asked question among his British colleagues is, why would anyone in America be opposed to the government providing healthcare for its citizens?

It would be nice to have a two party system of politics in our country — we used to have one — in which both parties are for the people, rather than against each other.

Through all the bickering and seemingly endless media coverage of healthcare one thought keeps coming back to me over and over — is this really the biggest problem we face, today, in the United States of America.

I asked the smartest person I know that question, and he simply shook his head. He’s 86 years old, fought in a world war, never got past the eighth grade, made millions of dollars, traveled the world, and is the most intuitively bright person I’ve ever known. What is our biggest problem I asked?

“Look up,” he said. What do you see? Not quite sure where my 86 year old friend was going with this modern day philosophy, I opted for the obvious. I see blue sky, a few clouds and a very bright sun, I said.

“Energy — we are relying too heavily on one source of energy for our planet and we are not using it wisely — that’s our biggest problem. The sun can produce oil in a million years or so — that’s not a very efficient source of energy. Farmers can produce energy in a few months, using the sun as a primary resource.

“Farmers are the first and most abundant source of new energy. If we learn from them, we can convert energy from most anything touched by the sun,” he added.

My friend points out that there is enough forest residue — left over from harvesting trees — in the Southeast to totally replace the fossil fuel we use to power our cars and trucks.

Skeptical, I Googled it. He’s right. Tack on nuclear power, wind power, conversion of algae, methane conversion, and so on and on, we could replace our dependence on foreign oil many times over.

Technology is not a barrier. The technology to make all these conversions is here. What we don’t have is the political initiative, nor the social will, to make it happen. If we don’t start electing politicians who are for the people and not for the party, and if we don’t take the initiative as a nation to demand that we find new, better and sustainable ways to acquire energy from the sun, we won’t solve any of the current social or economical questions facing us today, according to my wise friend.

Back to the healthcare issue, I interjected, knowing from past experience that my wise friend would continue to spew facts and opinion about energy as long as I would listen.

“Healthcare, he says, is simple, but maybe as difficult to attain as sustainable, affordable energy.” Knowing better, I asked how so.

“If you give a drunk a bottle of whiskey and tell him to take all he wants, how much will he drink?” All of it, I replied. Same with healthcare—you give a chronically overweight, cigarette smoking, fast driving, lazy American public free access to healthcare, and what will they do? Compound that by giving the medical profession a blank check to provide whatever tests and services their patient needs and what will they do?

So, how can we afford to provide universal health care to all our people and educate them and the medical profession to use it wisely?

“Simple,” he said. Again, very skeptical of more dirt road philosophy, I asked how so.

“Look up,” he said. OK, OK, I get it — solve the energy problem, but how does that solve our healthcare problems.

No need for foreign oil, no need for foreign wars in the name of safeguarding our energy supply. Take our troops out of the Middle East and invest part of that money in defense systems that keep them from coming over here. There’s three trillion dollars — depending on which accounting firm you use — left over for health care.

More people working in the energy industry solves our unemployment problems. People with money buy homes and invest in financial institutions. Optimistic people are much more teachable and learning how to eat and being able to afford to exercise will solve much of our health care needs.

With that pearl of wisdom safely tucked away, I got up to leave. “Where you going, he asked? To play golf — a wise man told me our country needs to be in better shape, spend more money and avoid stress, I countered over my shoulder.

“Youth is so wasted on the young,” he muttered, as he returned to hand-plowing his quarter acre garden.

e-mail: rroberson@farmpress.com