Friday, July 04, 2008

Offshore Oil

A few months ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about the impending oil and climate crises, and he kind of went off on me. He's still apologising, though it's completely unnecessary, because I understand where he's coming from. He yelled at me for scaring people into action. I think he actually yelled at me because he's scared, but that's just a little armchair psychology, and it's nicer than saying he's an asshole.

But shit like this scares me, too. And so I spread it. And scare other people. Hopefully enough of them figure out that we're right fucked, but there's stuff that can be done. We don't have to fry, we don't have to starve, and we don't have to drown. And yes, I want to save people, and that's kind of anthrocentric, but I just can't get too scared for the death of coral. It's hard to motivate me.

So I read a week or two ago that McCain is not only promising a spectacularly numbfuck gas tax holiday (which would not significantly reduce the price, and if it did, would actually make things worse), but he thinks that offshore drilling is the shit. Not shit, but the shit, as in cool. And what's worse, he knows that won't help, either:
But drilling for more oil in the United States will not lower the price of gas in the short term -- even McCain admitted as much when he said on Monday, "I don't see an immediate relief, [but] the fact that we are exploiting those reserves would have psychological impact that I think is beneficial." Bush's own Department of Energy concluded in 2004 that the long-term impact of lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling on oil prices would be "insignificant." The only way that expanded drilling, offshore and in ANWR, could make a difference at the pump is if global production of oil started significantly outpacing the growth of global demand. Which would probably require that Saudi Arabia crank open the spigot and China, India, and the rest of the world's rapidly emerging economies start to lose their enormous thirst.

Feel free to make dismayed noises. It doesn't help, though.

The article posits that this is a remarkably (and I mean remarkably) cynical ploy to garner votes (trading the end of the world for a few ballots), and here's the rub:
Suppose that McCain's strategy works. Suppose voters in enough swing states decide that the pain of high gas prices is so great that they will go with the candidate who is promising them the easy way out -- the gas tax holiday and offshore drilling and a nuclear power plant in every pot. What will that tell us about the American ability to suck it up and face down the challenges of the future?

Easy. It will tell us that we've lost the battle before we've hardly begun to fight. It will tell us that the environment is toast. We will have established that we, the citizens of the richest and most powerful country on the earth, are unwilling to pay the price necessary for embarking on a long-term ecologically sustainable path for existence on the planet. If $4 gasoline is enough incentive to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling, then $10-a-gallon gasoline will inspire even more drastic consequences. We will drill for every drop of oil, we will dig up every ounce of coal, we will sacrifice every environmental regulation, because we just can't take the heat. And then we'll fry.

Aren't I a cheery bugger?

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