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Thanking American oilmen

By Bruce Walker
web posted December 5, 2005

As long as I have lived, the biggest bogeyman of the Left has been the petroleum industry. Films like Executive Action posited the ridiculous theory that oilmen plotted the assassination of President Kennedy. If those men who found the oil, drilled the wells, refined the product and provided it to consumers and other industries were not portrayed as monsters, they were portrayed as morons, like the Beverly Hillbillies, who happened upon great wealth.

There is a reason for this animus, and it is a social bigotry against those who live in dry or frozen or swampy parts of America – people in flyover country – who produce real wealth that people want, instead of the silly, insulated and pampered smidgens of territory found in Manhattan and Hollywood and a few other almost alien parts of America.

Without oil – without the guts and the genius of oil millionaires who often worked besides their roughnecks in the field – America would not be a superpower. During the Second World War, despite having an industrial base far greater than the Soviet Union and Britain combined, America, thanks to the heroes of the oil industry, not only supplied the British Empire with most of its oil needs, but also supplied the Soviet Union with much of its oil needs as well.

Oil, more than any weapons systems, allowed allied pilots to fly enough training missions so that they could be very good in first combat, allowed naval vessels to provide convoy escorts and allowed the huge number of mechanized vehicles of American and British forces to defeat Hitler (the horse remained a principal transport system for the German military through the entire war, primarily because of inadequate oil supplies.)

As important as oil has been in preserving and defending freedom, oil has been the great social equalizer in American society. Few, if any, areas have often more people more opportunity for upward mobility than the oil industry in the last hundred years. That, in fact, is the rub. Old wealth hates new wealth. America, lacking a formal aristocracy, long ago established an informal aristocracy that did not include among the guests at Martha's Vineyard oil millionaires.

People who truly made America a superpower through the oil industry did not go to the right prep schools or have the right pedigree traceable to the Mayflower or even have the right ethnicity. They were Native Americans, Cajuns, "white trash," Alaskans and all sorts of the ignoble rabble.

What was true of the Northeast was true of Hollywood as well. Stars can be made easily and were in the period of the studio system (looked upon with nostalgia by those who recoil at horror at the "Seven Sisters," even though the oil industry had much more competition than Hollywood has even had.

Ordinary people, without raving reviews by film and theater critics, could become important people if they produced that product which ran the engine of America and which produced the inexpensive and very useful plastics also so despised by the elites who used expensive originals instead of plastic formed products.

Even against other industries, oil has been treated with contempt. Has there ever been a "bailout" of the oil industry, like there has been of the automobile industry, the steel industry or even the farming industry? Despite its vastly greater importance to national security, has the oil industry even been subsidized or granted interest free loans, like governments and businesses in other areas? Has the oil industry even asked more than to be simply left alone?

America could produce all the oil it needs, if the oil industry was simply left alone. Indeed, America could be an oil exporting nation, if the oil industry was liberated. As China needs more and more oil, as Europe grows more dependent upon unstable regions in Asia and the former Soviet Union, as Marxists like Hugo Chavez shake threatening fists at America, it would seem the least that the American people could do is unleash the genius of the oil industry.

The price of oil would stay low for consumers, the supplies abundant, the profits kept in America, the leverage with China increased, the power of unstable regimes diminished and the American economy would grow at a faster rate than any other major nation. The downside for Leftists: some ordinary, hard-working, risk-taking people might grow as rich as those with old inherited wealth in the isolated salons of snobbery. I say it is worth the risk: unleash the oil industry.

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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