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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Offshore Drilling Editorial Rant

The Sunday June 22nd Detroit Free Press has an editorial titled "Drill into the Future." Reading it, one gets the impression the editor was dragged kicking and screaming to write it. The tone of the editorial is that of an 8 yr. old spoiled brat who realizes that a tantrum isn't going to work this time and is reluctantly giving in to his parents wishes while making some demands like "This giving in to dumb demands by grownups is not sustainable." Within that context, I decided to parody my criticism of the editorial. Sometimes when I read an editorial like this, I can't just give a respectful critique. I feel the need to ridicule. In response to Bush's call for offshore drilling the editorial begins:
OK, let's drill for oil along the continental shelf.

But let's do it with extraordinary safeguards and let's also be clear -- as President George W. Bush has not been -- that sucking more oil and natural gas from deep water off the nation's coasts will not bring down the price of gasoline today or next month, and may not make more than a few pennies difference a decade from now.
Notice the hatred revealed by the use of the derogatory word 'sucking.' The spoiled brat is calling grownup activities stupid and wrong.
The sole reason to allow more offshore drilling would come in its political payoff, a splashy finish for an oil-soaked administration in exchange for real action on long-term energy sustainability.
More pouting about how grownups desires are soaked in stupidity (oil).

But wait, the brat has an idea (rationalization). He tells his fellow children: "If we give in to the adults on this, we might be able to extract some goodies from them. He offers four possibilities:
The trade offs could be:

• A floor on the price of gas, so America never again hops on the big car/compact car/SUV/hybrid rollercoaster.
Notice that the freep has no problem deciding how others should exercise their right to liberty (travel), i.e. grownups desires need restrictions so as not to be uneven.[?]
• An energy tax credit for low-income workers, who have been hit hardest by $4-plus prices.
We editors know that the poor are suffering--due to our past editorials. We really don't want to get rid of the source of their pain, just give them some aspirin.
• A massive energy efficiency push, not just on oil but natural gas as well.
Our chores need to be made easier.
• Grants for research and development that let all sorts of alternative energy ideas sprout. Not all of them will grow, but we've got to get far more serious about alternative thinking.
Increase our allowances and lets lobby the grownups to adopt alternative methods of parenting.

The editorial again dwells on how much the poor are hurt. But, it claims, the two solutions offered so far, dropping the gas tax for the summer and offshore drilling, do not address "...the question of how the country can live sustainably in an era when all the easy oil is already being pumped." In other words, the grownup's reasoned method of parenting is not sustainable but our whim worship is, so you adults need to adjust.

It is not the job of the Free Press or anyone else, to decide how the country can live sustainably. The whole 'sustainability' argument is based on false premises which have been exposed before. The one thing that is not sustainable is a government regulated economy. We continue:
Offshore drilling needs restrictions that keep rigs over the horizon and out of sight, and it must come with ample funding for the Coast Guard and other agencies to ensure proper inspections and the expertise to deal with oil spills if they occur.
That's right, oil rigs (like windmills) must be kept out of sight. Uncle Teddy said!

But then this feeble attempt at honesty:
But opponents of offshore drilling need to give the oil industry some credit, as well.
"Opponents of offshore drilling..."? Why who could they be? I don't see any around here, do you?
Raising the specter of the Santa Barbara oil spill, which happened in 1969, is no longer enough. Operations have been nearly blemish-free for almost four decades, including through Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
Oh alright. I guess it's true after all, the grownups way of doing things is right most of the time. But enough with the facts already, lets get back to our feelings:
More exploration offshore does not equate, however, to tearing up whatever landscape the oil riggers covet.
Notice the slanting words. The phrase 'tearing up whatever landscape' projects an image of grasslands and meadows where deer and bunnies play being destroyed by oil CEOs. The word covet means to desire something one shouldn't or in excess. Like others, this sentence is not aimed at anyone's mind. Its target is the readers' emotions. Its purpose is to try and evoke an emotional NO! which the editorial hopes will translate into the same hatred of oil companies that the editorial so glaringly exhibits.

Since oil companies are so wantonly destructive:
Prime natural areas, including the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, must remain off-limits -- one position that presidential contenders John McCain and Barack Obama also agree on.
Unfortunately true. No hope anytime soon.
The Great Lakes certainly cannot come into play, even though Canada has, so far anyway, put rigs in Lake Erie without incident. The potential risk to self-contained lakes, which supply drinking water to millions, may be minimal, but it's a gamble that no one should allow.
Even though the threat is negligible, we must pretend it is so serious that we can't allow it. We simply can't let facts get in the way of our feelings.

The editorial ends with its proposed solution:
The question is what America should do. And the answer is to start on the long-term transition to more sustainable energy. If more offshore drilling can speed the plan that brings that day sooner, it will be a political bargain.
So if more offshore drilling will put and end to offshore drilling, then that's presumably a good thing. Hmmm. Perhaps this will allow the Free Press the future declaration "But I was against it before I was for it."

The real intent here is not sustainable energy but a desire to stop the use of fossil fuels like oil and gas and presumably coal too, even if these can sustain us for a long time. The goal is sacrifice. There is eternal sustainability in death.

There were no government regulators to declare whale oil or horse drawn buggies unsustainable; to call for the development of alternative technologies like oil and cars. Adult thinkers were a tad more mature back then. New technologies came about precisely because men were free to invent and discover new ways of doing things that individuals were willing to pay for. There were no government altruists trying to force the changes and thus causing economic hardship as is the case with the sustainability agenda today. If one wants sustainable development which is also friendly to nature-there is no other kind-one will advocate laissez-faire capitalism.

I once wrote about the spectacle of one toddler trying to do good to a second toddler by offering him a toy or cookie. But the second toddler doesn't want it. Feeling rejected and having been taught that giving is always good, the first toddler tries to force the object on the second causing animosity to develop. That's when an adult has to step in and stop the process. The first toddler needs to be taught that the good cannot be forced; that starting force violates the rights of the second toddler. The first needs to learn that the right to choose of the second must be respected.

But what if the adult did not so instruct the toddlers? What if the adult supported the first in his effort to force the good on the second? The child will of course grow up to be an aggressive brat convinced that starting force is ok if done for a so-called 'altruistic' reason.

Imagine that adult gaining control of the school system and every year turning out hordes of such brats. Some of these will stay in academe creating more copies of themselves. These in turn would go into the culture to places like the media who would champion that educational system; to the body politic who would cater to it, to the businessmen who would cave in to the stamping-foot demands of all the other brats. The result of course is America today. And when I look at the current candidates for president, Obama and McCain, I can see the toddlers will be in charge for awhile longer. Sadly there are no adults in sight, not even in the editorial pages of the Freep.

(A footnote:
As for the idea that oil is unsustainable and peaking out, a good refutation of this was abundantly clear recently. As soon a Bush called for offshore drilling, the Saudis announced they would increase production. The Saudis know only too well that we have massive amounts of oil at our fingertips and could easily replace the 10% of our supply we get from them if we get the government and enviros out of the way. They don't want that to happen.)


mkfreeberg said...


Maybe you can educate me on the Objectivist position here. Is it an official plank of the platform that ANWR drilling and offshore drilling should be supported?

One would have to hope so, it seems to me. It strikes me as awfully silly to come down on Dagny's side, in opposition to James, in the "build a railroad track with Rearden Metal" debate -- and then block exploration on a parcel of land that is proportionate to a postage stamp on a tennis court.

Mike N said...

I'm not sure what platform you are referring to, unless you mean the official position of ARI. I would say that the official position of ARI would be that the government has no right forbidding corporations from drilling for oil anywhere, which would include ANWAR. But I don't officially speak for ARI.

You are right about the silliness of opposing exploration of a postage stamp on a tennis court. It demonstrates that enviros don't really care about nature. They are opposed to man's environment. They have no desire to protect it.