By Steven Milloy
November 13, 2008
If congressional Republicans -- or what's left of them -- are looking for the path out of the political wilderness following last week’s electoral drubbing, there’s a shortcut to victory in 2010 being paved for them by the Greens.
Last weekend on Fox News Sunday, Barack Obama's transition chief, John Podesta, said the Obama administration would act quickly to reverse a recent Bush administration move opening up public lands in Utah to oil and gas drilling. Podesta said that it was a “mistake” for the Bush administration to allow drilling “in some of the most sensitive, fragile lands in Utah…”
So, GOP, the battle lines are drawn. Since declining oil and gas prices are likely only temporary, we remain in an energy crisis. The problem could be solved by increasing domestic oil and gas production, but the Obama administration apparently aims to stand four-square against this.
The time has passed for Republicans to fret about being painted by the Greens as “pillagers of the Earth” for supporting drilling in allegedly fragile environments. Let’s get real. While such demagoguery is a standard Green tactic to block the development of natural resources, the notion of a “fragile” environment is a canard.
We routinely alter local environments. Any time you stick a shovel in the ground, you’ve permanently altered the environment. But in a rational world, mere environmental change is not the same as environmental destruction -- and if we are going to pretend that it is, then we’re going to have a hard time justifying any development whatsoever.
Moreover, modern oil and gas drillers aim to minimize their environmental impact, out of self-interest if nothing else. The potential legal and reputational liabilities are too great if they don’t. Last spring, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) even commended three oil and gas drillers (BP America, Devon Energy and Questar) for reducing their footprint on public lands.
Of course, local environments will be disrupted to some limited extent by drilling, but most probably to a much lesser extent than most other sorts of development, whether they be new or expanding suburban communities, roads, farming or a green energy projects -- like wind farms, solar panel fields, and cellulosic ethanol plants.
Consider, for example, how much “fragile” environment would be disturbed by T. Boone Pickens’ plan to build the largest wind farm in the world on 400,000 acres in the Texas panhandle. While the Greens say they support Pickens’ effort, in what way is the Texas panhandle less fragile than the Utah desert?
Last spring, the BLM placed a moratorium on solar power projects to be built on public lands, pending environmental impact studies. The necessary transmission lines and water use might disturb the native vegetation and wildlife, says the BLM. But the solar power industry screamed bloody murder and the moratorium was soon rescinded.
Given that the Greens oppose oil and gas drilling everywhere, the rest of us -- especially congressional Republicans -- must adopt the solar industry tactic of outspoken outrage if we want to end the Green-induced energy crisis. There is at least one congressional Republican who understands the Greens’ no-drilling-anywhere game -- Arizona’s John Shadegg.
In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in September, Shadegg spotlighted the Greens’ “dead-ender” mentality on drilling with respect to leases in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, which holds an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil (a two-year supply) and 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (a three-plus-year supply).
Not only have groups like the Sierra Club and EarthJustice challenged the legality of all 748 government-issued leases in the Chukchi, they’ve challenged the legality of the entire outer continental shelf leasing program itself. Shadegg wrote that the Greens’ “incessant legal and administrative challenges make true the Democrat claim that oil from newly opened [public lands] will not reach the market for years.”
Last week, Shadegg trounced his Democratic opponent, garnering almost 80 percent of the vote. His success stands in stark contrast to Green-friendly Republicans who were defeated, including New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu and North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole. Then there’s Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, who may very well lose in a recount against comedian Al Franken. Let’s not forget that John McCain’s embrace of global warming alarmism garnered him no visible Green support while simultaneously alienating many Republican voters.
Earth to Republicans: the Greens don’t and never will support you. That should come as no surprise since they’re all about left-wing politics -- not the environment, which they use only as a battering ram/shield for their political agenda. Kowtowing to the Greens is a fool’s errand, if not political suicide. In contrast, most Americans want and need energy security and independence. They would vociferously support you in that endeavor.
The Greens plan to make an all-out push for their agenda in 2009, knowing that 2010 is an election year in which politicians, even Democrats, get cautious and avoid radical legislation. Since anything could happen in 2010 -- including the election of a Republican-controlled Congress -- the Greens have no choice but to grab what they can, while they can.
All that stands between America and energy policy disaster in 2009 is the Republican minority in Congress. Averting that disaster and championing domestic production is the path to victory in 2010. If the Republican leadership needs help in getting its arms around the problem, a visit to Rep. Shadegg’s office would be a good start.