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Golden Oldie: Big Earth, Little Us

Memo: To Website Fans, Browsers, Clients From Jude Wanniski Re: From February 16, 2000

Back at the start of the 2000 presidential primaries, it was still not clear who would win the GOP nomination, Texas Governor George W. Bush or Arizona Senator John McCain. On Feb. 16, I posted the following memo on the margin, an open letter to them suggesting they debate the idea that mankind is responsible for "Global Warming," an idea that Mr. Bush did not embrace and one the Senator McCain embraced whole-heartedly (and still does). It’s one of my favorites and I thought it a good time to play it again.

Big Earth, Little Us

To: George Bush & John McCain From: Jude Wanniski Re: Keeping Things in Perspective

Involved as you are in your own race, you may not have noticed yet, but the two Democrats in the race both absolutely are certain that we humans are responsible for Global Warming and the U.S. government must do something about it! I’d thought Bill Bradley might challenge Al Gore on this issue, as the Veep practically invented Global Warming. Nope, Bradley has tried to get to Gore’s left even with the Tree Huggers and has pledged to lead the crusade against further oxidation of carbon. Indeed, he even says he worries about 1.2 billion Chinese buying autos with internal combustion engines.

On the other hand, neither of you Republican aspirants seem very sure of your ground on the Global Warming issue. Governor Bush, early last year I noticed you came out in favor of doing something about Global Warming after being briefed by an environmentalist, but you didn’t seem sure of yourself. Senator McCain, I noticed you were asked about G.W. on Hardball last week by a young lady who says she worries about it. Instead of saying what you thought, pro or con, you dodged, saying you would get the best minds to advise you.

If you do, Senator, you should include a physicist among your best minds, as they tend to believe it highly unlikely that humans can warm the planet. Politicians hardly ever ask physicists. Now I’m not great at physics, but I try to keep things in perspective. In the 1970’s, when I was writing the energy editorials for The Wall Street Journal, the Club of Rome was insisting mankind was running out of liquid petroleum. Almost all Democrats and most Republicans took the warning seriously. As an old-fashioned reporter, I inquired as to how much oil had been discovered and where it had been discovered. I found that since the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania in 1857, 3.2 million holes had been drilled looking for the stuff, 2.5 million in the U.S., in the Oil Patch. Why were 78% drilled in our little corner of Earth, a few more in Europe and the USSR, and fewer than 5% in the rest of the world? It struck me that we are the only country on earth where citizens who own the surface rights to their property also own the mineral rights! Holy smokes!! The earth barely has been scratched!

It further dawned on me that serious men and women of both political parties not only were in total ignorance of these facts, but they also did not care when I informed them. Their positions were fixed by their parties! There were VOTES to be had in "preserving the environment," even on false assumptions. The late Edmund Muskie of Maine 20 years ago noted how we were running out of space in the United States. New Jersey was his example, as he would observe it while flying or driving along the corridor to Washington, D.C. Hmm. A check of the Almanac showed New Jersey has the highest concentration of people of all 50 states, yet the Department of Agriculture classifies one-third of the Garden State as FOREST, a good chunk of the rest farmland.

Wow! We really are Little. Except the most rabid enviros around – the editorial writers of the NYTimes, think Big. Living on top of each other, they think grandiose thoughts about how big man is and how small Man has made Mother Nature. Again I grabbed the Almanac and found that if you tried to fit New York State into Nevada, you would have room left over for New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maryland and most of Lake Ontario!!!

Now I’m onto something, gentlemen. Just because we won the Cold War, we think we are GOD!!! Bigger than life!!! We actually are WARMING THE PLANET even as we exhale, but mostly by driving around in SUV’s and stretch limos. Just how Big are we? If we took all the petroleum discovered and produced in the U.S. since 1857, how many barrels would that be? Easy enough, says the American Petroleum Institute: 178 BILLION BARRELS. Wow: 178,000,000,000. A huge number. But how big is that mass? Would it fill Lake Superior? Well, how about Lake Tahoe, on the Nevada-California border? Tahoe is 193 square miles at its surface and 1,640 feet at its deepest point. The Lake Tahoe Regional Commission tells me by telephone there are 946 BILLION BARRELS of water in the lake. CHECK, PLEASE, THIS CAN’T BE TRUE! But it is. All the oil we teeny people have consumed since 1857 would fill less than 20% of the Tahoe that our Creator filled with crystalline fresh water! [If you took all the oil consumed by everyone on earth since 1857 and poured it into Tahoe’s crater, it still would fall short of filling it up!!]