Analysis and rationality in a nonrational world

May 10, 2006

The liberal tree-huggers did it

Filed under: Energy, Government — analysis @ 12:36 pm

Here is what I’ve been told: Democrats and environmentalists (collectively known as the “liberal tree-huggers,” or “Hollywood hypocrites” or, simply, “Easterners” though Hollywood is, I think, out West) caused the shortage of gas in two ways: by not letting oil companies drill in the US, and by not allowing new refineries to be made.

Here is what Bill Cawthon said: “There has been no new refinery construction in the U.S. since 1976. In fact, according to testimony presented to Congress in September 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency received only one application for construction of a new refinery from 1975 to 2000.”

Hmmm.

Also, of course, there are the capped oil wells, which I’m told were shut down by environmentalists. Well, it’s true that in the Alaskan wildlife refuge and some offshore areas, environmentalists and others DID manage to stop drilling. On the other hand, Alaskan oil largely goes to Japan, and there are only six months’ supply there anyway. Rather than burning it quickly in our SUVs, perhaps we SHOULD be saving that for future use – you know, in case of war or national emergency or something. And, just to remind everyone, a wildlife refuge is a refuge for wildlife, not a great big corporate bonanza area.

Traditionally, the government has not profited much from mining or drilling on Federal lands; indeed, it often costs us quite a bit. I don’t recall anyone offering us a fair profit from Alaska; it’s a gimme, gimme situation. Even if I was for drilling there, I wouldn’t approve of the economic terms.

As for the capped oil wells, they cap oil wells when they run dry. Of course they are not completely dry; it’s just not worth the money to squeeze out the remaining oil at today’s prices. I am sure that, no matter what the Sierra Club says, and I really don’t see them objecting to opening up already-used oil fields again, if the price of oil climbs enough to make it worthwhile, those wells will be re-opened.

Dare I even get into the usual tired arguments about the liberal press (you know, like Rupert Murdoch’s Fox / newspaper chains) which is now so afraid of appearing liberal (save for the NY Times editorial section and Boston Globe) that it’s bent far in the other direction, or about how liberals are running the country even though last time I looked, neocons ran the White House, Congress, Senate, judiciary, and all government agencies? No, there’s no point, I won’t convince anyone who isn’t willing to stop and think, but just parrots some lying pundit on the TV (and yes, there are some who lie without compunction) or some improbable e-mail hoax or gets really upset over something blown way out of proportion (like singing the Star-Spangled Banner in Spanish, y’know, like George W Bush did when he was campaigning … or like some store not putting out a model of the baby Jesus at Christmas … or like a cashier saying “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas.”) Anyway, that’s all besides the point. I feel pretty safe in believing that we do have a finite supply of oil with increasing demand from China and India as well as the United States itself, and as long as people continue to act as though there IS an infinite supply, we will continue to run up against the wall now and then, prices will adjust until demand goes down or supply goes up, and off we go, like we have no memory at all. Which we really don’t, since people are using the same tired arguments now that they always did. (By the way, in one comment that was accidentally erased, I was told Fox News must be right because they’re the most popular news channel. Following that logic, communism must be right because there are more people in Communist China than the US, Danielle Steele must be a better writer than John Steinbeck, Ford must be better than Dodge, and Access must be better than FileMaker or MySQL.)

I don’t really know where some people get the idea that oil is inexhaustible. Nothing is available in infinite supply, though I will admit we have more sea-water than we will ever be able to use, since it isn’t particularly useful.

Of course, there’s always nuclear power. That can work out well for companies that figure out a way to shift the burden of paying for the plants and the security and the waste disposal to the taxpayer without letting them know. It’s hardly a perfect solution, though, given the problems of security (think about suicide terrorists aiming small planes into that nice protective dome – those of us who know how poisonous plutonium is, quite aside from the radiation, will understand the problem that poses) and long-term disposal of nuclear wastes, and the headaches they give ethical powerplant folk, who care about safety, not to mention the fact that a uranium shortage is not unlikely given Chinese interest in nuclear power as well as oil and gas.

The most economical solution is using less, pure and simple. But our cars use the same gas they used in 1980, on average – rather shameful given the technological changes that happened at the same time, such as solid-state computer controls, sequential multiple port fuel injection, 5-speed automatics, materials technology advances, direct injection, coil on plug ignition, etc., etc.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, anyone who drove a big car was laughed at for having a boat. That’s the way people thought. Maybe today we should de-cool the Navigators, Suburbans, and, yes, the 300Cs, and start to play up the coolness of the Calibers, ‘rollas, and SRT-4s.

(By the way, I’m still waiting for a public apology or at least an admission of wrong-thinking from the people who insisted we have a shortage of oil because environmentalists blocked the construction of refineries.)

__This is the most popular post in my blog by a considerable margin.__ It seems people like to look up the terms oil refineries and tree-huggers for some reason. Can you leave a comment saying why you came?

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