Oil versus Bambi – A view on Drilling in the Alaska Arctic Refugee

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A
friend of mine recently sent me this
clip
, and asked what I thought. He highlighted several parts
of the article specifically. They’re included, complete with email
reply markers. My friend is pretty green, but it’s from a love of
the outdoors, and an honest desire for a better world, not an ideologically
driven agenda. Here’s my reply, slightly edited from email to web.

“[...]Supporters
said opening the Arctic refuge for oil exploration was needed to
reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil. [...]

Critics claimed the measure would damage one of the last great wilderness
areas on the continent, while providing only six months’ supply
of oil – and that would not be available for nearly 10 years.
[...]

Earlier Wednesday, the House voted 269-160 against raising fuel
mileage standards for sport-utility vehicles to 27.5 miles per gallon,
from the current fleet average of 20.7. ”

what is your stance on that?

Well,
here goes: In two words, my stance on this is – Private Property.

I
do not think bulldozing Caribou into a massive oil pit while dynamiting
nursing baby seals is a good thing. I am not in favor of standing
puddles of oil as long as I don’t have to see it. I think Industries,
LA, Galveston, TX and the East side of Philly, PA look like Hell.
So don’t mistake honest analysis of “green” arguments as some kind
of advocation for a paved Earth.

Most
of Alaska is a “park” or “preserve” of some kind. Private individuals
own a tiny fraction of the state. The political hullabaloo over
how to best use this “common” ground (parks or oil) is missing the
real point: What business does arguably the largest polluter on
the planet, the US Government, have owning most of the land in Alaska.
Furthermore, why
is Congress using the political processes of bribery, demagoguery,
graft, and special interests, instead of the market processes of
fair bidding, supply and demand, and private ownership, to figure
out what to do with it
?

If
Big Oil companies actually owned the land, environmentalists could
point a finger at the ones who screw it up, and laud the ones who
keep it pristine. Kind of like “Dolphin friendly Tuna” incites fishing
companies to avoid killing Flipper, enviro-friendly gas at the local
BPAmoco would be in higher demand than Exxon Valdez Round II gas.
As it stands, Big Oil likes Big Government doling out rights to
drill on land that Big Oil doesn’t have to buy, maintain, or give
a damn about since they don’t have to bother reselling it. If the
Big Oil companies had to actually BUY the land and worry about reselling
it, and consequently preserve the local environment, all while avoiding
bad publicity from the environmentalists, we would be better off
than our current “public-private” socialist system. As it stands
now, Government has decided to drill. What oil company will get
to produce the oil? Transport it? Refine it? Besides Dick Chaney’s
Haliburton, I mean. If something goes wrong who will be blamed?
BPAmoco? ExxonMobil? No. “Big Oil” in general or “the Government
run Artic Oil Drilling operation.” Pretty neat PR coup if you’re
a big oil company not too keen on safety.

What
do we care how many months worth of oil might be produced, and how
do we expect the fiscal cretins in Congress to know. Let the oil
companies bid along with everyone else for the land. They take the
risk; they reap the reward.

Earlier Wednesday, the House voted 269-160 against raising fuel
mileage standards for sport-utility vehicles to 27.5 miles per gallon,
from the current fleet average of 20.7. ”

I’m
glad to know that we can safely legislate the laws of physics. Why
did they stop at 27.5 MPG? We could solve all our environmental
problems with the stroke of a congressional pen if they had only
mandated the auto industry create a 1,000 MPG engine. Or maybe a
salt-water fusion engine! Of course, this again misses the real
issue. What business does Congress have passing this kind of legislation?
Do they really think consumers are going to buy a car that gets
5-MPG? Some will. Most will opt for the more fuel-efficient 25-MPG
version. The unintended consequences of regulation are often worse
than the legislation itself. To whit: The SUV’s currently under
the EPA 20.7 MPG fleet rules are non-commercial vehicles. Those
wily capitalists knew the EPA rules about vehicles over 8,500 pounds
gross being considered “heavy-duty”. The result is the Ford Excursion,
weighing in at 8,600 pounds gross. Coincidence? It gets 12 or 13-MPG
city, depending on engine, and crushes Japanese economy cars with
the greatest of ease. If not for the EPA rules, Ford would have
undoubtedly taken some of that expensive and heavy steel out of
the Excursion. One has to wonder how many fewer might be dead if
we lifted the EPA rules and Ford made the Excursion a mere, say,
6,200 pounds. Luckily, the Boston Globe has the answer: 1 MPG extra
legislated fuel economy = 7,700 extra dead Americans each year.
The EPA
missed that in their benefit-cost analysis.

The
bickering between the Green lobby and the Big Oil lobby shows the
stupidity of both. They rely on the government to politically stick
it to the other group, and whine when things don’t go their way.
They could both have it mostly their way; instead they waste time
and money waging PR/media campaigns and bribing Congressmen. Do
you think Congress will change this anytime soon? “Well, I just
don’t know about drilling in Alaska, you better take us on another
multi-million dollar, Lear-jet junket up there to figure things
out…”

So,
wrapping up where we started: Private Property. My stance is that
we should have a massive auction of government property until the
Federal Gov’mint (and the states) owns only its Constitutionally
mandated 10 square miles of DC, along with the forts, magazines,
arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings to carry out its
Constitutional duties.

Then,
The Nature Conservancy, or Texaco, or both can buy chunks of the
Arctic Preserve. If Texaco got it, they would certainly be more
likely to keep it nice and pretty in order to sell it than they
are under our current system.

August
7, 2001

John Keller
[send
him mail]
owns a Technology
Consulting
and a Real
Estate
business in Atlanta, GA.

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