Posted on December 18, 2005
Filed Under Uncategorized |
By MA Nystrom
December 19, 2005
An editorial in the December 15th issue of Investors Business Daily (IBD) titled “Homemade Deficit” calls attention to the ballooning US trade deficit and highlights serious concerns about America’s reliance on foreign oil.
I could not agree more. But from the editorial’s promising starting point, it goes on to make a complete non sequitur by bringing up ANWR – the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – and rues the day that former President Clinton vetoed a bill that would have allowed oil companies to go drilling for profit on America’s public lands. According to IBD’s misguided editorial, drilling in ANWR would, “supply every drop of petroleum for Florida for 29 years, New York for 34 years, Illinois for 43 years. That’s a lot of oil.”
A lot of oil? Rather than lament Clinton’s 1995 veto, why not celebrate it as a brief moment of sanity in government. Why not reflect instead on the last energy crisis of the 1970’s and think about our lost opportunity to develop alternative energy sources 35 years ago? The Carter administration provided tax breaks and incentives to develop such alternatives, only to see them killed by the incoming Reagan administration. Think back thirty years and you realize how quickly the years go by, and how cheap oil is a drug that keeps us strung out and prevents us from innovating alternatives.
The editorial goes on to say that drilling in ANWR would mean “hundreds of thousands of jobs,” and that furthermore, they would not stop just at ANWR – it says business needs a green light from government on exploration in the Rocky Mountains, and on the environmentally sensitive continental shelves, too. “Regulatory ‘relief’ (my quotes, not theirs),” they melodramatically state, “is also vitally needed for the overworked refining sector…We’re free traders on most issues, but when it comes to oil, we’d rather not send billions of dollars to questionable regimes that even now are helping to fund jihad against the west.”
Please. If they are free traders, then they ought to know when to let the market work. Being a business paper, IBD surely knows the importance of the pricing mechanism in substitution and innovation. If oil becomes too expensive, we will simply use less, look for substitutes and innovate new sources of energy. Oil prices are already coming down, I suspect, for precisely these reasons. And I’m not sure what kind of “relief” the oil companies need, considering they have just reported all-time record earnings. Perhaps they are the ones that should be providing the “relief.”
The truth is that higher oil prices will force a change in the American economy that sorely needs changing. (See Wired article, “Why $5 gas is good for America” ) Are American’s so addicted that we need an oil well in a national refuge, or in the Rocky Mountains? Do we need to pollute the few remaining pristine spots on Earth in order to satisfy our oil fix for a few more years? While we’re at it, why don’t we just start a huge project to pave the entire planet with concrete? Think of how many jobs that would create, while making it so easy to drive everywhere! Wouldn’t you like to be able to drive to the top of Mount Everest in your SUV, rather than having to make an annoying, dangerous climb? A paved earth would be a safer, more prosperous earth, under IBD’s twisted logic.
A few more decades of cheap oil will do nothing to address our real long-term problem, which is that we are running out of oil, and it will only exacerbate our other real, long-term problem, which is that the earth is running a fever called global warming. What happens when we’ve drilled every well, ruined every national park, polluted every sea and continental shelf, warmed the earth and we’re still out of oil? That is real poverty. Thirty years from now we’ll be back up this same creek, only worse off because there will be no place left to drill, and thirty years of potential research on alternative energy will have been squandered.
IBD’s proposed “solution” is typical of what is wrong with the thinking that dominates American business today: Privatized profits, socialized costs, addressing only short term crises, completely ignoring long term problems and leaving the debts and the mess for our children to clean up. The oil crisis, Social Security, the national debt – they are different problems, all produced by the same thinking.
ANWR is managed for all Americans by the US government. This land is your land. This land is my land. This land is not the land of big oil. Of course big oil and their Washington lobbyists are eager to open ANWR – they stand to make huge profits at the expense of America. “All Americans will benefit,” they claim, “by the availability of cheap gas.”
Please. The price of gas in America does not, and never has, reflected its true cost. Economists have a term for this – it is known as “externality” – a cost that is not reflected in price, but rather one that is socialized, or paid by everyone. In the case of oil and other fossil fuels, that externality is global warming (which IBD no doubt disputes). 2005 will go down as the hottest year on record . Meanwhile, IBD, the big business complex it represents and the government we’ve lost control of want to go out in search of cheap oil at any cost, while our very house is on fire!
The problems we are facing as a global society are huge. IBD’s short-sighted solution is like putting a band-aid on a festering wound. The fact is that we’re all in this together. Do your part – drive less, ride a bike, take public transportation, seek out and support alternative energies and tell your senator or congressman to keep big oil out of ANWR.
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