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Volume 16, Issue 26 - June 26 - July 2, 2008

Oil or Environment?

What’s your say in these troubled times?

People in those old times had convictions; we moderns only have opinions.

–Heinrich Heine: The French Stage, 1837

Convictions, opinions or even thoughts, fears and preferences, dear readers, I beseech yours. I’m in a quandary. Not that my decision will have any bearing on the outcome of events. But I need some input from neighbors, friends and readers.

In view of the current energy and economic dilemma, would you allow drilling for oil in Alaska or off our shores?

This is a question of priorities — and I must admit for the first time in many decades, I find it difficult to make a decision in a controversy that pits economy against environment. Ordinarily, there would be no hesitation. I’d go with the latter. But we and much of this world of ours is in deep doo-doo — and we’re past the point of denial.

The bottom line is energy. Not just energy as such, but how we get it, how we use it, how we waste it and how its use will impact our children and generations to come

How I wish I could just stay with gut impulses and say we got ourselves in this quagmire, two wrongs a right does not make. But if you probe all the ramifications, it simply isn’t that simple. Oil exploration goes beyond wildlife in Alaska or marine life in the Atlantic, though I hardly mean to diminish moose, caribou, the fragile tundra or the life within the ocean and the ocean itself.

Let’s take a look beyond the possibility/probability of despoiling the sea or the pristine wilderness of our 49th state, where I lived for a year in the early 1950s before it was a state.

Piecing Together the Big Picture

Of late we’ve had appreciable increase in hunger in undeveloped and semi-developed nations because our unquenchable thirst for energy has prompted us to divert food crops like corn to ethanol energy. This has created a domino effect. Prices of wheat, rice and other basic foods have risen so much the poor cannot afford them. At times they’re not sufficiently available even if they could buy them.

Enter malnutrition, hunger, even starvation. The drive we take to go to the convenience store for cigarettes or lottery tickets could burn enough energy to deprive a child in an undeveloped country of a meal. That child needs energy, too. Also, consider this: People can take hunger only so long before social unrest erupts — and that can lead to anything, none of it good.

Other considerations: In this country, our energy thirst is raising havoc with our economy and our way of life. You could say we deserve it because we are more guilty than any other nation of the reckless use of energy. But again, fellow human beings are involved, and many are suffering beyond paying exorbitant prices at the pump. Our poor become poorer because the price of just about everything we buy is dependent on energy to get it where we buy it — and the cost of fuel to get it there — not to mention of its manufacture — are rising.

Yet another consideration: Oil producing nations — many of which aren’t very friendly to us these days — have us by the throat. From afar, they control our economy. We didn’t have the foresight to cut them off at the pass when we could, so now we’re paying the piper. Creating new energy sources is a snail’s-pace thing. And first that energy resource must be found.

And no longer is it just plain energy, but clean energy. We can’t in our panic overlook global warming, which becomes more evident and ominous every day just about every place on Earth.

Only our government and others can see fit to set aside global warming considerations. Politicians don’t think long range, just from election to election. Yet to bring transportation, manufacturing and business into reasonable compliance with sensible environmental reasoning would cost exceptionally big bucks and severely impact all economies even more. That’s the worst thing any politician could think of.

To Drill or Not to Drill

Is it at all possible that we could make some prudent concessions to ease the current bind? Then, once we’re over the hump, target global warming with renewed emphasis. Is it possible — and guaranteeable? That’s the bottom line.

It matters not which party is in power, has been in power or will be in power. Even a partial solution will take years. Paybacks are hell — and that we deserve them won’t make them any easier to endure.

We’re at a stage where finger pointing is moot. Dead-horse kicking will solve nothing other than to delay what must be done — if we ever learn what it is that must be done.

Leading economists tell us opening Alaska and the Continental Shelf for drilling would produce a significant drop in oil prices well before the pumping even starts. Current foreign producers would no longer have an energy monopoly. The pressure would lessen for a time.

That’s not a cure; just a treatment. In the meantime, we will still have more dangerous global warming catastrophes looming.

Worldwide, we’re in a heck of a sour pickle that involves so much more than filling up the tank or the price at the pump. There are real human life-and-death issues involved. Inconveniences, the economy, even a depression I can deal with; starvation and malnutrition I cannot.

Thus, I find it exceptionally difficult to decide: Drill or not. So I’m wondering what our readers, with such exemplary records in conservation, think? Ethically, where are our priorities?

Express your convictions to us at this newspaper: editor@bayweekly.com. Yes for drilling; no for drilling. I’m also interested in how you’re coping with the energy crisis — if you can take time from raiding the piggy bank for the next tank of fuel.

Enough said.

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