Vol. 10, No. 18

May 2-8, 2002

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What We Won’t Do to Feed Our Appetite for Oil
by Pat Piper

At the end of 2002, when you are asked what was the biggest waste of society’s time over the past 365 days, the answer is going to be (I hope) a no-brainer. But we’re only in May so there’s lots of room to knock what happened last month out of first place.

The Bush Administration has been at work trying to convince the rest of us we’ve reached a point where we just have to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. After all, we have a 19 million-barrel-per-day appetite. One persuasive argument they make is the fact that 57 percent of the oil we use comes from other countries, even Iraq. The Bush Administration is smart to make the attempt to become less dependent on natural resources that come from nitwits like Saddam Hussein.

Speaking of nitwits, let’s talk about the Senate.

As part of the push to pass the Bush Administration Energy Plan, senators spent a week arguing about the need to start drilling for oil in a wildlife refuge in Alaska. That’s right, a wildlife refuge. Experts predict there is as much as 16 billion barrels of oil beneath the frozen land. That’s going to fuel a lot of SUVs that only get 16 miles to the gallon. If you do the math, 16 billion barrels will supply oil to the U.S. for exactly 732 days. After that, well, maybe Saddam will be singing a different tune. Please.

The good news is this ain’t gonna happen because pro-drilling forces didn’t have the votes. The bad news is these 100 intelligent human beings wasted everyone’s time on an inane idea. (Maryland senators Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes voted against it, while Virginia’s George Allen and Warner supported Arctic drilling.) I was hoping the vote could be delayed until Earth Day, but the pro-drilling forces decided to cut their losses. That was the only good idea they’ve had on this issue.

This is a wildlife refuge. There’s a reason it was made a wildlife refuge, and that’s because wildlife need one single place where they can live unencumbered by civilization. Are we going to just say, ‘You know what? The hell with the bears and the caribou, we need oil because we don’t want to be inconvenienced’?

If we are going to say this — and that’s what was said on the Senate floor just a week ago — then we need to say ‘Let’s charge McDonalds for ads on Mt. Rushmore because we need a few billion for education … And let’s drill for more oil in Yosemite and let Hyatt put an outdoor beer garden next to Old Faithful.’

Let’s just forget the whole crazy idea about keeping some land untouched. I’ll guarantee there will never be another deficit. If there is, just sell off another stupid national park. Make it a movie theater/mall and let Disney run the thing.

The question has to be asked: Do we have to use every single acre of land simply because it’s there for the taking? The Senate has already answered by even having such a discussion.

Nowhere in the arguments being made by proponents of this idea is there any suggestion that maybe we’re in this mess because we just haven’t paid any attention to what happened in this country in 1977 when America first heard the letters O-P-E-C put together.

Automakers have made great strides in producing high-quality cars despite griping about how it can’t be done. Their record proves it can be done. With some assistance from the senators who wasted time in this ridiculous debate, domestic automakers could be well on the way toward producing a car using less petroleum — foreign or domestic.

A month ago, these same folks arguing for oil drilling had the chance to set mileage requirements on SUVs and light pickup trucks to ensure less use of oil, be it domestic or foreign. They chose to give the Department of Transportation two years to decide what the minimum miles per gallon should be. That’s the same department that is part of the White House that wants to drill for oil in national parks.

The first words coming from those who see nothing wrong with this idea will be, ‘that’s the voice of a left-wing (fill-in-the-blank) party trying to get the government to tell me what kind of car I should drive.’

It isn’t. It’s the voice of common sense saying the problem is that we use too much oil. Drilling for more oil, even if it’s in Texas or Alaska or Yellowstone, isn’t going to solve the problem. Looking at the big picture will, but so far that record isn’t too good.

In another 10 years, I hope parents will be able to show their children what a national park looks like. If this can be done without the use of a gas-eating SUV, so much the better. But I’ll take the park over the SUV any day. In the meantime, the move to make meaningless the words ‘wildlife refuge’ is going to continue — until all of us say ‘Stop wasting valuable time and energy on bad ideas.’

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly