Thursday, April 28, 2005

What do "environmentalists" really want with ANWR?

The Seattle Times has run a couple of "guest editorials" the last couple of days on ANWR and energy use. I found them interesting, in that they revealed more than the usual "don't disturb the caribou" bumper sticker slogans. In fact they pointed out, that the opposition to ANWR, was not so much that they were afraid we would destroy the park, a desolate area nobody goes to anyway, but that they actually want to restrict our access to oil, in order to amplify the shortage. A telling quote:

Ultimately, an energy policy that relies on billions of dollars in subsidies to big oil and gas companies and drilling wildlife sanctuaries for less oil than the U.S. consumes in a single year is worse than no plan at all. By extending our reliance on fossil fuels at the expense of sustainable, clean, innovative energy solutions, pro-drilling politicians are missing the boat.

Now let me start by saying, I am completely in favor of "alternative" and "clean" energy. If you can invent a fusion reactor or fuel cell car, more power to you. Any major company that is not investing in future technologies like this is truely "missing the boat". I am even in favor of government sponsorship of some of this research. Where the authors are "missing the boat" on this, however, is that we don't currently have the technologies to replace fossil fuels. That is why prices are going up. They just want to make the situation worse, as some sort of perverse incentive program. These technologies will be developed over time by private industry, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't use what resources we do have available. These two issues are not mutually exclusive. This argument is like claiming that we shouldn't treat AIDS patients, because keeping them alive without finding a cure for AIDS, is just "extending our reliance" on the current drugs. We can do both!

The second piece, by the fact challenged Floyd McKay, makes the same false point.

Wrong, if you look at our congressional leadership. Once again, Congress is taking the wrong fork in the road to the future. The tough have backed off, and instead rewarded their friends.

Increases in gas prices remind us that we have two roads to choose between. One road — the energy industry's road — leads to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and probably in the not-distant future to drilling offshore.

Congress is taking that road, and the House added insult to injury by boosting the tax breaks the oil industry already gets, to encourage more exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. Even President Bush, stalwart friend of Big Oil, gagged at that one.

The road not taken by Congress is to use concern over gas prices to do some conservation work to ease our dependence upon non-renewable resources.

There is absolutely nothing saying that we can't do both at the same time! This is not a fork in the road, these are various steps that we can take. There is more than one solution to a problem. This is analogous to the current argument that we invaded Iraq purely for WMD, not to overthrow Saddam and establish a democracy. Because everyone knows you can't have more than one reason for doing something.


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