There is something pathetic about Americans begging the House of Saud to produce another 300,000-500,000 barrels of oil per day, while in mindless fashion repeating the mantra, “We can’t drill our way out of this problem” — as if anyone suggested absolute oil independence was the goal rather than more supply to deflate tight conditions that encourage speculation. Americans, who invented the oil industry, are beginning to resemble H.G. Wells’ Eloi in our refined paralysis.
Exploration and oil production are an issue that is absolutely explosive for Democrats, given their perennial resistance to ANWR, coastal and deep ocean drilling, tar sands, shale, liquid coal, and nuclear. And the irony is that their opposition to drilling — dismissing each potential find or field with the reductionist “it would be only 500,000 barrels,” “a mere million barrels,” or “just a few cents off a gallon of gas” — is classically illiberal to the point of either callousness or abject madness.
The excuse I keep hearing about why we shouldn't drill is that the oil wouldn't be available for "ten years" which I guess means we shouldn't bother. Frankly, I'm skeptical of the ten year guesstimates but even if it is, so what? The alternative that is touted is to "invest" in alternative fuel research, but how long will it be before that research yields competitive results? Could it be 10 years? Or longer? Or never? I don't know and neither does anyone else, so if the logic of not drilling holds we shouldn't do the research either, right? Why not, drill for more oil and use the proceeds from lease sales to fund alternative fuel research? Doesn't it make more sense to pursue two paths rather than pinning all our hopes (and dollars) on one?
More from VDH:
The Environment: Given the demands of two billion users in China and India, the world is going to go after oil, whether we like it or not. U.S. oil companies and American environmental legislation are the most ecologically friendly in the world. Each time we refuse to pump a barrel of oil, someone else in this fungible market will — and with far less concern for the health of planet Earth. Again, there is something appalling in de facto saying to others — “Drill off your coasts and in your fragile deserts and beside your lakes so I can fuel my Lexus SUV and Volvo — and cherish the comforting thought I would never do that in my ANWR.”
Cuba is leasing blocks off the coast of Florida right now. Who do you think will do a better job of protecting the environment - Hugo Chavez' PDVSA or an American company operating under our rules?
Financial Sanity: U.S. exporters are doing brilliantly, with help from a weak dollar, but our efforts to produce and sell abroad are increasingly all for naught, given the enormous cost of imported oil. Each time we invest American know-how and expertise in selling abroad a skip-loader or bushel of wheat or new software program that once explained our national wealth, we simply buy another barrel of foreign oil at $140 that often costs the far-less-adept less than $5 to pump. In contrast, the tens of billions we would save by even shaving 3 to 4 million barrels per day from our imported appetites would radically redefine both our trade balances and the dollar.
Politicians all think they can cure the trade deficit by brow beating the Chinese into letting their currency rise against the US dollar. Unfortunately, the Chinese have been letting their currency rise and the trade deficit is not getting any better. That's because a large part of our trade deficit is due to the increasing bill for importing oil. If politicians really believe the trade deficit is a problem (which, from an economic perspective it's really not), they should be doing something about reducing our imports of oil. I guess its easier to blame someone else for our self generated problems.
Food versus Fuel: I don’t understand in moral terms how worrying about the terrain in 2,000 acres in a multimillion-acre Alaska trumps diverting one-fifth to one-fourth of our corn acreage away from animal and human foods to produce transportation fuel. People worldwide are in dire straits, given rising food prices, while we, in anti-humanistic fashion, complain about the view from Santa Barbara or a herd on the tundra.
Making ethanol at the expense of hungry people is just wrong. If ethanol is part of the solution, then get rid of the tariff on ethanol. Sugar cane produced ethanol is more efficient than corn based anyway. Of course, politicians can't harvest campaign contributions from Brazilian sugar farmers, so this won't happen.