The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is a catastrophe. It’s literally going to make large swaths of the coastline and wetlands a disaster area. It’s also part of the reasonable cost of drilling for oil, and Obama’s order to shut down all new American drilling is shortsighted and foolish. (The Russians, Chinese, and other countries will continue new drilling in the Gulf, regardless.) So impulsively shutting down new drilling certainly doesn’t do anything to protect our coasts. It just means that every day we wait, America will have less of a share of the oil off our own coast.
A little perspective is in order: the reason this is such a shocking disaster is precisely because this sort of thing is so rare. I’m not insensitive to how it’s going to affect the Gulf Coast. I live here. I’ve got shrimpers and fishermen in my family. And I promise you, in spite of this awful accident, we don’t want drilling shut down. Most people want it expanded. We need the jobs, the country needs the oil, and the federal government, with its massive spending binge, would surely like to have the revenue. A little known fact: other states split drilling revenue 50-50 with the federal government. Louisiana, on the other hand, has never received that. We’re fighting just to get to 37.5%. And even that doesn’t start until 2017.
Conservatives chant “Drill, baby, drill!” because we know that right now, oil is the most cost-effective form of energy available. We think it’s great that research is being done into green energy. We’d love it if hydrogen fuel cells, the wind and the sun could power how we live. But they can’t right now. So we need to continue drilling for oil, because these sort of accidents are part of the cost of doing business just as Chernobyl was part of the cost of nuclear energy.
At some point soon they’ll stop the thousands of gallons of oil per day from spilling into the Gulf. Some fish, birds, and assorted critters will die – others will be saved with the help of volunteers, just like they were after the Exxon Valdez disaster. The coastline will be cleaned, and the tourism and fishing industries will eventually come back and wildlife will return to the affected areas. We’ll figure out what caused the explosion on the rig, and try to prevent it from happening again. We’ll learn new lessons about how to prevent spills and how to mitigate the damage when the do happen. And we’ll keep drilling – or we should. Because the last thing we need in this train wreck of an economy is higher energy prices.
It’s the childishness of this all though that bothers me, the refusal to accept the simple proposition that in life, there are choices, and choices have consequences, and sometimes it’s necessary to accept some downside to get a lot of upside. People don’t seem to acknowledge the upside of petroleum — like being able to drive places, or having heat and electricity in their homes, and so on — because it “just happens,” by magic, I guess.
On the other hand, show them a dying otter and they want to stop this all.
Added: The Anchoress links in one of her excellent roundup posts – thanks!