Thursday, March 17, 2005

Let's open the moon to drilling

Everyone knows that yesterday's narrow win in the Senate for Republicans on opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling was a symbolic one. And, everyone knows that it will make virtually no difference in U.S. dependence on foreign oil, a drop in the tanker, if you will. But it was inevitable that we would be treated to nonsense such as that uttered by Alaska's king of federal pork, Sen. Ted Stevens, who said, "It's as important to me as the first step Armstrong took when he stepped off on the moon." What could top that? Perhaps Sen. Steven's next target will be to open the moon to drilling. It would make about as much difference.

Most of the major oil companies aren't even that interested in drilling in ANWR. I wrote two pieces earlier explaining why we will see a lot more of these kinds of actions: Commodities bull a bear for the environment and Commodities bull II: An oncoming train. Below I repost a portion of the second piece:

Because of the long lead times needed to develop new supply for many resources, nothing done today will have much effect on prices or supply for several years to come. Any proposed actions which are touted as providing quick results should be treated with skepticism. Actions such as opening public lands, sometimes protected lands, to private exploration will be done in the name of alleviating shortages; but this will often be done with an eye toward rewarding political contributors.

Sadly, such shortsighted moves will do nothing to address the profoundly serious resource issues we face in the areas of energy, water, soil and climate. When prices are low, few people worry about natural resources. When prices are high, all people want is to have more of what is scarce right away. To rely on the highs and the lows of the commodity cycle to guide us in making intelligent choices in the area of resources is the height of folly. We need a deeper and less financially driven context in which to consider critical natural resource issues.
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