Monday, March 14, 2005

B.S. of the Day

Oh, Gale Norton. You make me smile. Actually, I'm lying. You make me want to usurp your position and get someone with a single iota of environmental integrity into the Department of the Interior.

In case you missed it, Ms. Norton wrote a lovely editorial in the NYT today singing a paean to modern-day oil drilling. Apparently, the Arctic won't even know we're there! Funny, that..."When the spring thaw comes and the road melts, any evidence that a man or a machine ever crossed there will be gone," she claims. Hmmm. I've seen aerial photos of the tracks left by giant transport machines called rolligons. They don't generally leave the tundra untouched; rather, their heavy weight causes them to emboss the tundra with tire tracks that can linger for years. This effect will only be enhanced by global warming, which will melt the ice, thaw the permafrost, and leave the tundra vulnerable to human damage...

Oh wait, I forgot. By her administration's book, global warming isn't happening - silly me!

Let me quote the NYT's editorial board, which responded to her piece:

"The United States Geological Survey's best guess is that even at today's record-high prices - in excess of $50 a barrel - just under 7 billion barrels could profitably be brought to market. That's less than the 7.3 billion barrels this country now consumes in a year. At peak production - about 1 million barrels a day in 2020 or 2025 - the refuge would supply less than 4 percent of the country's projected daily needs."

I've studied this, and their numbers are correct. The other often overlooked fact is that it would take years for this oil to reach us after we begin setting up the infrastructure to extract it. This isn't going to do anything for our current shortages, which will only increase as the world's reserves dwindle. Increasing fuel efficiency, on the other hand, would have tangible impacts: it would cut pollution, reduce our dependency on oil, and subsequently increase our nation's security. It's a no-brainer.

But there are no brains in certain portions of the government right now, and we may not have the power to stop them this time. It will only take 51 votes in the Senate to open up ANWR - a brief hour is all that's needed to seal the fate of one of our last wild places. Time and again, polls and studies have shown that Americans of all political stripes are largely opposed to drilling in the Arctic. I guess what we want doesn't matter. Big surprise.