Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Oil drilling saves the whales

Two years ago, Charles Krauthammer wrote an article called “Supply and Demand Realities” where he derided the liberal position toward energy policy. On the topic of developing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for oil development, he noted: “ANWR is the poster child of cake-and-eat-it-too eco-petulance. It's a place so remote and so desolate that not one American in a million will ever see it. Exploration would affect no more than 8 percent of the refuge. Rather than disturb the mating grounds of caribou, however, our exquisite environmentalists have prevented exploration of what could be our next Prudhoe Bay.” Take note that this was written before 9/11, before Iraq, before the Venezuelan strikes, and before a bitter Northeast winter, all of which have driven gas prices above $2/gallon. Considering how the price of oil affects the American economy, maybe now’s a good time to reconsider development of ANWR.

Not so fast, says the Boston Globe, in an editorial today that is a breathtaking pique of eco-petulance, bordering on self-parody. An excerpt from “The Damage in Alaska”:

Although there have been no major spills on the North Slope itself, the noise of exploratory drilling and other activities has forced bowhead whales into more distant migration patterns, which has hurt hunting of the whales by natives. The garbage of oil field workers has increased the populations of predators like brown bears, foxes, ravens, and gulls that also feed on the eggs and fledglings of arctic birds, cutting into their populations.
The greatest harm has been done by roads and structures such as drilling platforms, which cause dust, flooding, and thawing of the permafrost. Off-road travel leads to surface erosion, changes in water flow, and damage to tundra vegetation. All of these effects are aggravated by the fact that nature's repair of damaged areas is slower in the harsh climate. Because it is costly to remove structures or restore road surfaces to their natural state after they are no longer needed, little of this environmental repair work is ever done.

Even now I’m shaking my head at this gaseous display of greenish foot-stomping. So oil drilling in Alaska 1.) saves the whales 2.) feeds the animals and (gasp!) 3.) thaws the permafrost. I can see the protest posters going up all across the Berkeley campus now: “Stop the Melting of the Alaskan Permafrost!” “Billions of ice crystals are being reduced to their liquid form!” “Stop putting asphalt over the frozen ground!”

Completely absent from this peevish rant is any mention of the potential cost of not drilling in ANWR, most notably our increasing dependence on Mideast oil and the funneling of petro-dollars into the hands of terrorists through Saddam Hussein and Saudi princes. The editors at the Boston Globe (owned by the New York Times) really do live in a different world than you and me.

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