August 1, 2008

The perils of the standard drill-and-burn policies

The erudite Paul Krugman asks in his NYT op-ed piece this week: Can This Planet Be Saved?

Most criticism of John McCain’s decision to follow the Bush administration’s lead and embrace offshore drilling as the answer to high gas prices has focused on the accusation that it’s junk economics — which it is.

A McCain campaign ad says that gas prices are high right now because “some in Washington are still saying no to drilling in America.” That’s just plain dishonest: the U.S. government’s own Energy Information Administration says that removing restrictions on offshore drilling wouldn’t lead to any additional domestic oil production until 2017, and that even at its peak the extra production would have an “insignificant” impact on oil prices.

What’s even more important than Mr. McCain’s bad economics, however, is what his reversal on this issue — he was against offshore drilling before he was for it — says about his priorities.


Back when he was cultivating a maverick image, Mr. McCain portrayed himself as more environmentally aware than the rest of his party. He even co-sponsored a bill calling for a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions (although his remarks on several recent occasions suggest that he doesn’t understand his own proposal). But the lure of a bit of political gain, it turns out, was all it took to transform him back into a standard drill-and-burn Republican.

And the planet can’t afford that kind of cynicism.

In themselves, limits on offshore drilling are only a modest-sized issue. But the skirmish over drilling is the opening stage of a much bigger fight over environmental policy. What’s at stake in that fight, above all, is the question of whether we’ll take action against climate change before it’s utterly too late.

It’s true that scientists don’t know exactly how much world temperatures will rise if we persist with business as usual. But that uncertainty is actually what makes action so urgent. While there’s a chance that we’ll act against global warming only to find that the danger was overstated, there’s also a chance that we’ll fail to act only to find that the results of inaction were catastrophic. Which risk would you rather run?

Exactly my question and the point I've been making all along! But like Krugman writes: "sheer irresponsibility may be a winning political strategy."

But despite ridiculous and false scare-mongering tactics, people, frustrated with the high prices at the gas station buy into the Republican party's rhetoric and it is sad to note that "public support for ending restrictions on drilling has risen sharply, with roughly half of voters saying that increased offshore drilling would reduce gas prices within a year"; something which, as I pointed out in my rant yesterday, goes against the government's own studies suggest that drilling for AWNR oil will have little impact on oil prices and keep the US heavily relying on foreign imports. In similar vein, I have received more mails showing me pictures of Saudi princes palaces and fleets of Rolls Royces jealously ranting about "Look, this is what your money is buying for those guys" and no mails with pictures of the houses of CEOS of oil companies or even mails about the 10s of billions of dollars of profit being made every quarter for the last 3-4 years by the oil companies.

And though I fear I have no readers and little power, now is the time for action and education and countering such lies and spin, which have infinite power to misinform and mislead; otherwise we risk losing whatever momentum the last couple years have brought to the environmental movement - saving it from the fringe where it has festered as something that kooky treehuggers indulge in and making people feel proud to be 'green.'

To quote Krugman again:

The only way we’re going to get action, I’d suggest, is if those who stand in the way of action come to be perceived as not just wrong but immoral. Incidentally, that’s why I was disappointed with Barack Obama’s response to Mr. McCain’s energy posturing — that it was “the same old politics.” Mr. Obama was dismissive when he should have been outraged.

So as I said, I’m very glad to know that Nancy Pelosi is trying to save the planet. I just wish I had more confidence that she’s going to succeed.

It is indeed so easy to get cynical about the chances but we have no option but to keep our chin up and continue raising awareness - for us and for all future generations. 2-3 centuries is too short a time to wreck this earth! Human beings should be and are smarter than that!

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