Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Middle Ground

I'm starting to look over today's news, and it's pretty exasperating. On the one hand, we've got Shrub saying, "The only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress. Now the ball is squarely in Congress' court." (emphasis mine)

Oh, Puh-leeze! We have no accurate idea what oil resources exist. There's every reason to believe there's at least a few barrels worth. There's no reason to believe we'll suddenly find another Saudi Arabia's worth. The amount we'll find between those two endpoints is basically unknown. As a response to high prices at the pump, simply drilling every acre within U.S. territorial waters is probably not a very smart response. CNN's analysis this morning said that the very earliest this oil could hit the market is 2017; the earliest it's likely to make a difference to prices is 2030. If we want to maintain our addiction to oil for the next 20 plus years so we can take advantage of a few cents or a few dimes per gallon of price reduction (which will last no longer than a few years), then we should discuss that option.

On the other hand, I find the ignorance of hard-core environmentalists nearly as infuriating. Drilling for oil is not evil. We do not use baby seals for for drill bits. Let me make this clear: if you live in the U.S., you depend on oil. Even if you don't own a car. Even if you heat your home with wood. I'm stretching a little here, but not much: I can't think of a single product that isn't in some way dependent on oil. If you live under a pine-bough lean-to in the woods, and live completely off of wild plants and grubs, you can ignore this. Of course, you have neither electricity nor computer, so you're not reading this. Basically, if you ever buy anything in this country, you depend on oil.

We desperately need to find alternatives to our level of consumption, but it is unlikely in the extreme we will ever reach a point where we don't need oil at all. We may reduce our consumption by a factor of a hundred, even a thousand, but it's still too useful, too versatile to give up completely.

I feel a little like I'm beating a dead horse, but we do need to find our remaining oil resources. We do need to do seismic surveys of our coastal waters. Contrary to conventional wisdom, oil is a renewable resource. Trouble is, right now we're using it on the order of a million times faster than it's regenerated. So along with getting an accurate inventory of just how much we have left in this country, we need to start looking at where we can replace oil with other resources. We have numerous options in the transportation sector, fewer in plastics manufacturing, and fewer still in candle-making. Yeah, there's bayberries and beeswax. But environmentalists want the cheapest candles they can find.

There's no rush: the oil will take years and decades to make it to market. A few days, or even a few years, Mr. President, will not make a big difference. And for those whose righteous indignation is giving them ulcers: when you give up your car, your plastic food packaging that keeps everything fresh and unspoiled, when you give up your synthetic fibers made from petroleum and your cotton fertilized with petroleum-created fertilizers and sprayed with petroleum-based pesticides, when you give up the electricity delivered in petroleum-insulated wiring, then we can talk about when we should stop drilling for oil.

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