Saturday, June 14, 2008

ANWR Isn't the Answer

"Imagine for a minute, just a minute, that someone running for president was able to actually tell the truth, the real truth, to the American people about what would be the best -- I mean really the best -- energy policy for the long-term economic health and security of our country," writes Thomas Friedman in a May 28 column in the New York Times.

Actually, I believe that did happen, in the summer of 1979, when President Carter delivered what was ridiculed by Republicans as his "malaise speech."

After saying that America was suffering from a "crisis of confidence" (which had been brought on by the severe inflation that was a result of OPEC's direct influence), Carter said, "I'm asking you, for your good and for your nation's security, to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel."

He was asking Americans to do what it has taken $4/gallon gas to get them to do -- voluntarily reduce consumption. (And, by the way, Carter never used the word "malaise.")

That was 29 years ago.

And, in the roughly year and a half that Carter had left in the White House, he mostly tried to move the country in the direction of developing alternative energy sources.

Except when he yielded to political pressure and tried to offer a quick-fix solution in the form of a windfall profits tax to an electorate that didn't like what it was being told.

The American people, you see, didn't like to be told the truth then, and they don't seem to like it now, either. Yet that's what they continue to insist that they want.

But they don't want the truth. They want an easy, pain-free, quick-fix, tomorrow-be-damned answer.

Speaking of the quick fix ...

In the Washington Post more than a week ago, George Will wrote that we get the oil prices we deserve because of our refusal to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

That opens the door for Will to complain about how "72 of today's senators ... have voted to keep ANWR's estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil off the market." Both Barack Obama and John McCain were prominently mentioned as cuprits.

And the people who voted for the individuals who supported that policy in Congress are disqualified from complaining about today's high prices, Will said. "[T]hey should pipe down about gasoline prices, which are a predictable consequence of their political choice."

Will goes on to say, "One million barrels is what might today be flowing from ANWR if in 1995 President Bill Clinton had not vetoed legislation to permit drilling there. One million barrels produce 27 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel."

Supporters of drilling in ANWR, like Will, often say that the opposition to it is based on emotional appeals from wildlife groups (the "tree huggers," as they like to call the environmentalists).

(In fact, Daniel Henninger makes that point in the Wall Street Journal: "We won't drill for the estimated 5.6 billion to 16 billion barrels of oil in the moonscape known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) because of -- the caribou.")

But the truth is it isn't just the harm to the environment that makes drilling in ANWR a bad idea. That's a convenient argument, and it's one that's probably easier for most people to understand than complex economic concepts.

(That, of course, doesn't change the fact that drilling for oil poses a genuine risk to the wildlife in that region.)

While I'll admit that I am no economist, I don't think you have to be an economist to understand that drilling for oil in ANWR is really nothing but a short-term solution. The long-term answer lies in developing renewable energy sources.

Because the ultimate goal is energy independence. It affects everything else. Our addiction to foreign oil has led to simply disastrous decisions in, among other places, the volatile Middle East.

And, whether they want to admit it or not, Americans are helping to support our enemies in that part of the world with much of the money they spend on oil, even while Americans are dying in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan. That won't change until we face reality and develop different energy sources.

But that's going to take decades to achieve, whines Fred Barnes in Weekly Standard. We're going to need energy in the meantime -- to heat and cool our homes, to operate our vehicles, to maintain our lifestyle. So he encourages McCain to promote more domestic drilling.

"On this issue," says Barnes, "Republicans need McCain, and he needs them."

Americans are like the cocaine addict who can't accept the fact that his addiction to the drug supports dictators and rogue elements in South America.

It was time to start looking for alternatives 29 years ago, but America didn't want to listen to Jimmy Carter.

Now, Americans are desperately seeking a solution.

Well, ANWR isn't the answer.


Andrew Peters said...

Hi there,

I was just stopping by your blog today and came across this post. You might be interested in some of the work we're doing here at The Wilderness Society, especially as it pertains to the Arctic Refuge. Hopefully we can get in touch to talk about the opportunities. You can contact me via e-mail at:

Andrew_Peters 'at'

I'm looking forward to hearing form you.


tws1615 said...

I really enjoy your blog and would like to send you updates on other important environmental issues. May I please have your contact information? Thanks!