Read Eric's bio and previous columns
June 23, 2008
More Drilling Is Not the Answer
Letís ask ourselves a very simple question: What if gas prices donít
I know, the question has been asked and answered. Gas prices arenít
going to come down, at least not by a great deal. Despite talk of a
bogeyman called The Speculator, the Energy Department recently warned
that we should expect gasoline to stay $4 a gallon through next year.
is coupled by other rising energy costs. For homes that are heated all
winter long via natural gas, there is already talk of another sharp
spike in those prices, as well.
silver lining exists, it is that this has returned the topic of energy
to the nationís lips. In its wake have come a whole host of ideas.
of them are bad, like drilling in areas now protected. Not only do
Energy Department estimates tell us that the oil wouldnít be forthcoming
for at least a decade, but that it wouldnít in the long run have much
impact on the worldwide price of oil. It also deflects the debate from
the real issue, which is how to fix the structural problems with how we
provide ourselves with energy.
doesnít mean that drilling should be entirely off the table, only that
it isnít a solution to anything. Anyway, if the oil companies wish to
make a more credible case for this, theyíd explore and drill the lands
for which they already hold leases, which are estimated to hold more
substantial reserves of oil than are available off-shore and in the
picture planning is not something that Americans have traditionally gone
in for. Itís something that routinely gets denounced as anti-market and
oftentimes as outright socialism.
leave the name calling to others, but I do think itís worth noting that
faith in the market has gotten us precisely to where weíre at now,
reliant on an unstable part of the world and without the means to wean
us from that fealty in the short-term.
plan does not necessarily require central control. It should encourage
investment in a way that doesnít repeat the stampede for ethanol,
support for which has rapidly evaporated as its serious problems come to
are three things that a comprehensive energy strategy should include Ė
transportation, community planning and agriculture.
Transportation is obvious, but aggressively investing in public
transportation Ė specifically rebuilding the nationís rail network Ė
would promise the best short-term relief for families bogged down by gas
prices. That is, if you canít do anything about the price of gasoline,
make it so people donít have to buy so much by providing ways for them
to get around.
also plays into community planning. The nationís downtowns have fallen
into disrepair because cheap gas has allowed people to flee urban
problems rather than deal with them. Itís also led to communities where
people live miles from where they shop, miles from where they work and
miles from where their kids go to school. While itís sensible to not
place a paper mill next to an elementary school, it is not sensible to
force people to drive to regular destinations.
what is little discussed is the role of fossil fuels in providing us
with food. Agriculture ships food thousands of miles, and natural gas is
itself converted to anhydrous ammonia, one of the most widely used
could be, in the end, that the best course of action requires tapping
into reserves. Oil will be a part of the energy picture for a very long
time. If, indeed, itís projected that weíll need that oil in two
decades, when it will be most reliably available, then itís work that
needs to get under way now. But itís not the answer. Itís not even a big
part of the answer, and the question itself is big enough and
far-reaching enough not to pretend that it is.
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