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The oil no-brainer

By Brian Wise
web posted June 23, 2008

The last time I wrote about oil and gasoline consumption was four years ago, when a gallon of gas was selling for two dollars twelve cents and Americans were out of their minds from righteous indignation.  The more outraged among us were scheduling fruitless boycotts, mass-forwarding barely readable, thirteenth generation conspiracy theory emails, and screaming at the top of their lungs about how little the Bush administration was doing to stem the tide.  But as was concluded here at the time, "… if the goal [of protests] is to make a financial statement, then conservation at and beyond the gas pump should be your first consideration, and will be your best bet."

Reader reaction back then often said that conservation was beside the point; some of the objections were so long and twisted the Unabomber was seen convulsing with jealousy.  Most lost upon the majority of those doing the screaming was the concept of conservation beyond the gas pump – if you really wanted to move as freely in 2004 as you did in 2001, and your finances didn't otherwise allow it, sacrifices would have to be made.  Sacrifice is not part of the modern American character.  The thought seemed to be that prices should just be lower, even if they achieved at the point of a bayonet.  Anything except using less.

We needn't wonder whatever became of those radical nonconformists.  Once gas prices started looking and feeling more European, the radicals did what they should have been doing in the first place.  The Department of Transportation reports that between November 2007 and April 2008, Americans drove thirty billion fewer miles than normal, the biggest decline since the late 1970s, which is encouraging, but much too late to make any real difference, as we see.

Substitute hosting Glenn Beck's television show last Thursday, Michael Graham asked a question that didn't get nearly the attention it deserved: If there were suddenly a mass shortage of bread, someone in a position of authority would say, "Make more bread," and that would be that.  Why isn't this the case with oil?  Putting aside the obvious regulatory gymnastics and ideological entanglements that stymie any such process: If you started building the appropriate infrastructure fifty miles off the Florida coast today, five to ten years would pass before a drop of that oil would be available for consumption.  Obviously this is a process that should have gotten underway many years ago.

The Left's answer to demands for increased oil drilling is uniformly, "The United States cannot drill its way out of its energy problems."  Actually, yes it can, and could have been doing so for over a decade now if only Bill Clinton had bothered to exercise the prescience we were assured lingered, as if somehow in-born, with the very fabric of his soul.  (Or something.)  We can't drill our way out of this problem quickly, which is a turn-off for a country that expects everything to be done with a sort of fast food efficiency.  We absolutely can drill out way out eventually, if only certain elements would stand down and allow progress to be made.

Those opposed to new drilling could make a better, more logical, and modern argument if they would accept the reality of the moment and say, Yes, America must be energy independent and must drill for oil of its own, to fulfill its own needs, but it cannot only drill for oil.  Concurrently, those insisting only on drilling must also meet the reality of our times.  The strides we've made toward alternative fuels et cetera must continue, but at this stage it would be unrealistic to say alternative fuels must be the only game in town.  More oil is a no-brainer, if only we can muster the moral courage to move forward. ESR

Brian Wise's web site can be found at http://www.brianwise.com.


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