Energy Policy / Junk Science Environmentalism

From: Janice Matchett <>
Date: Thu Dec 15 2005 - 10:50:31 EST

Thursday, December 15, 2005
Collectivists disguised as environmentalists

WASHINGTON In 1986, Gale Norton was 32 and
working for the secretary of the interior on
matters pertaining to the proposal to open a
small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge area 1002 to drilling for oil and
natural gas, a proposal that then had already
been a bone of contention for several years.
Today Norton is the secretary of the interior and is working on opening ANWR.

But this interminable argument actually could end
soon with Congress authorizing drilling. That
would be good for energy policy and excellent for the nation's governance.

Area 1002 is 1.5 million of ANWR's 19 million
acres. In 1980, a Democratic-controlled Congress
at the behest of President Carter set area 1002
aside for possible energy exploration. Since
then, although there are active oil and gas wells
in at least 36 U.S. wildlife refuges, stopping
drilling in ANWR has become sacramental for
environmentalists who speak about it the way
Wordsworth wrote about the Lake Country.

Few opponents of energy development in what they
call "pristine" ANWR have visited it. Those who
have and think it is "pristine" must have visited
during the 56 days a year when it is without
sunlight. They missed the roads, stores, houses,
military installations, airstrip and school. They
did not miss seeing the trees in area 1002. There are no trees.

Opponents worry that the caribou will be
disconsolate about, and their reproduction
disrupted by, this intrusion by man. The same was
said 30 years ago by opponents of the
Trans-Alaska Pipeline that brings heated oil
south from Prudhoe Bay. Since the oil began
flowing, the caribou have increased from 5,000 to
31,000. Perhaps the pipeline's heat makes them amorous.

Ice roads and helicopter pads, which will melt
each spring, will minimize man's footprint, which
will be on a 2,000-acre plot about one-fifth the
size of Washington's Dulles Airport.
Nevertheless, opponents say the environmental
cost is too high for what the ineffable John
Kerry calls "a few drops of oil." Some drops. The
estimated 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil
such estimates frequently underestimate actual
yields could supply all the oil needs of Kerry's Massachusetts for 75 years.

Flowing at 1 million barrels a day equal to 20
percent of today's domestic oil production ANWR
oil would almost equal America's daily imports
from Saudi Arabia. And it would equal the supply
loss that Katrina temporarily caused, and that
caused so much histrionic distress among
consumers. Lee Raymond, chairman and CEO of
ExxonMobil, says that if the major oil companies
decided that 10 billion barrels were an amount
too small to justify exploration and development
projects, many current and future projects around the world would be abandoned.

But for many opponents of drilling in ANWR, the
debate is only secondarily about energy and the
environment. Rather, it is a disguised debate
about elemental political matters.

For some people, environmentalism is collectivism
in drag. Such people use environmental causes and
rhetoric not to change the political climate for
the purpose of environmental improvement. Rather,
for them, changing the society's politics is the
end, and environmental policies are mere means to that end.

The unending argument in political philosophy
concerns constantly adjusting society's balance between freedom and equality.

The primary goal of collectivism of socialism
in Europe and contemporary liberalism in America
is to enlarge governmental supervision of
individuals' lives. This is done in the name of equality.

People are to be conscripted into one large
cohort, everyone equal (although not equal in
status or power to the governing class) in their
status as wards of a self-aggrandizing
government. Government says the constant
enlargement of its supervising power is necessary
for the equitable or efficient allocation of scarce resources.

Therefore, one of the collectivists' tactics is
to produce scarcities, particularly of what makes
modern society modern the energy requisite for
social dynamism and individual autonomy. Hence
collectivists use environmentalism to advance a
collectivizing energy policy. Focusing on one
energy source at a time, they stress the
environmental hazards of finding, developing,
transporting, manufacturing or using oil, natural gas, coal or nuclear power.

A quarter of a century of this tactic applied to
ANWR is about 24 years too many. If geologists
were to decide that there were only three
thimbles of oil beneath area 1002, there would
still be something to be said for going down to
get them, just to prove that this nation cannot
be forever paralyzed by people wielding
environmentalism as a cover for collectivism.

E-mail George Will at
Received on Thu Dec 15 10:53:48 2005

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