When I hear politicians talk about "energy independence" for the U.S., it makes about as much sense as "global warming." And no wonder. In the minds of most politicians and the environmental lobby that they bow to these days, the two concepts are inextricably bound. As a result, our so-called leaders are moving in the wrong direction to achieve a hazy, ill-defined and ultimately unworthy and unachievable goal.
First of all, as has been expressed on our pages many times over, there is no scientific proof that an increasing level of carbon dioxide causes any significant impact on the planet's climate. To hitch our entire energy policy and our ideas about how to achieve "independence" on a fallacious and unproven assumption is the purest form of folly.
Second, the "carbon-friendly" technologies that are being touted as the answer to our independence problem-windmill power, solar power and ethanol-are proving to have major drawbacks of their own. Windmills make a large "footprint" and are harmful to birds, something the animal rights activists cannot be happy about (just gotta love it when one specious liberal cause conflicts with another). Solar is expensive and not that easy to harness. The deleterious effects of producing corn for ethanol production at the expense of other crops are showing up in higher food prices.
Third-and the most maddening to me-there is virtually no discussion anymore about what we, right here in the U.S.A., can do to make ourselves truly more independent on the energy front. And that is, to remove the shackles the environmentalist whackos have had on us for 30 years or more, and be liberated to exploit the God-given resources that are there for the taking. It was refreshing to hear Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-TX, actually making the case recently for drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and off our Atlantic and Pacific shores. It's a shame, however, that it has taken the crisis of $4.00/gallon gasoline and rising food prices for a Republican in Congress to finally speak up about the obvious near-term solution. It's also a shame that President Bush's unpopularity has prevented him from continuing the brief offensive he conducted on this issue a few years ago when he stated about ANWR, "We need to get after it." Now he's moved to the dark side on the environment, but that's just another story on pandering which is becoming as normal as breathing. Although he continues to advocate drilling in ANWR, his sellout to the greens in accepting the premises of "global warming" make his pitches for ANWR ring hollow.
I'm tired of hearing about the tiny impact that opening up ANWR and other, off-shore finds for drilling would supposedly have on the amounts of oil we would still need to import. Whatever dent the resulting production would put in our 60 percent reliance on foreign oil would be welcome. Unfortunately, Democrat senators like Charles Schumer (D-NY) are always quick to pour cold water on that argument as well as to whine about the alleged environmental detriments.
Hovering over all the arguments about how best to achieve energy independence is the virtual religion of environmentalism. It's with us, everywhere you go, inescapable. My grandchildren are being indoctrinated in their schools. Why, even Wal-Mart, that bastion up until now of everything the liberals love to hate, has professed its allegiance to "green." The assumption that CO2 and anything that produces it (never mind that we humans exhale it) is harmful to the planet is as unscientific and unprovable a theory as Darwinian evolution. Yet the largely leftist contingent who thrust their agenda on us insist that there is no other position that is even worthy of discussion, let alone debate. How can we possibly formulate a sensible energy policy that leads to greater independence and not have a rational, and truly national, honest debate about the pros and cons of more than one approach?
Once upon a time, the environmental movement was needed to address real problems with pollution of air and water. But that was many years ago, and now the movement, like many others before it, has grown overly powerful and, drunk on its own power, more stridently insistent on getting its own way no matter how irrational that may be. Take ANWR as an example. As Senator Hutchinson recently noted, "ANWR is an area the size of the state of South Carolina. The part that would be drilled is an area the size of JFK airport or Washington National Airport or Dallas Love Field." Relative size is certainly worth noting in pro-ANWR arguments. So is the fact that oil companies now have far more environmentally-friendly drilling techniques than they had in the past. The people of Alaska, by and large, are solidly behind the project. We "Lower 48" Americans should be as well-given the estimates that due to the increased price of oil, ANWR would be worth $94.8 billion in federal income taxes and $42.8 billion in royalties, totaling $138 billion.
Recently, Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom, who's smart enough to know better, claimed that the environmental movement must be noble because, unlike the oil companies, there's no real money in it. That is a fallacy of the first order. The environmentalists have some of the richest people on the planet in their hip pockets, filling their coffers so that they in turn can fill those of the (mostly liberal) politicians they support. The "carbon credits" charade will make fortunes for many in the pro-green movement as well. And as we all know, money is power in the corridors of Washington.
Since we have three presidential candidates who all profess to be as green as the Emerald Isle and Democrats controlling Congress, we will probably need to focus on this problem at local, state and regional levels to be most effective. Promoting politicians at these levels who have the courage to go against the grain and proclaim the truth about "global warming" along with the failures of ethanol and other "renewable" solutions will eventually get the message to national leadership that the public does not want to go in this direction. As with illegal immigration, the bigwigs in Washington will only respond when the grassroots make sufficient noise.