Environmentalism undercuts U.S. growth

Thursday, April 18, 2002, is a date which will live in fallacy: The United States of America suddenly and deliberately turned its back on the fact this country now imports 60 percent of the petroleum it consumes.

That was the day when the U.S. Senate killed oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Forgive the parody to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s address to Congress, but since it is his party that has chosen to side with Saddam Hussein instead of native Alaskans, I thought it appropriate.

Before oil was discovered in Prudhoe Bay fields, the Inupiat Eskimos had no heat in their homes, no running water and faced rampant disease. The tax revenue gained from Prudhoe Bay production enabled every village to build local health clinics. As I sit in my philosophy class and listen to a professor who favors reparations for Native Americans, I find it ironic it is this same left-wing ideology preventing native Alaskans from reaping the economic benefits from oil development in ANWR.

When the amendment was defeated on April 18, our very own Sen. Mark Dayton (D) said it was a victory for everyone who believes destroying one of America’s last pristine wilderness areas is not the way to achieve a balanced national energy policy.

On the contrary, I believe it is a victory for everyone who believes in unbounded environmentalism and a defeat for everyone who believes in national security. Senator Dayton’s statement, completely absent of evidence, is so unmindful it is borderline irresponsible.

Extended-reach and 3-D seismic drilling technologies are safe and would not harm the wildlife. The caribou population has thrived since the development of Prudhoe Bay. Development activity would only occur in the winter, when very few animals are present.

ANWR development could replace 30 years of Saudi imports. It could create 750,000 jobs. Federal revenues would be enhanced by billions of dollars. Only 2,000 acres out of 20 million would even be affected. But unfortunately, 46 Democrats in the U.S. Senate have rejected all of this. And what do many of them support instead? Higher fuel-efficiency standards, of course!

The first time Congress failed to properly address the problem of foreign oil dependence occurred in 1975 with the creation of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, in hopes of depressing gas consumption and dependence on foreign oil. But as fuel efficiency increases, consumers can drive a given mile at a lower cost.

Contrary to what Senate Democrats such as Tom Daschle of South Dakota and John Kerry of Massachusetts will tell you, fuel-efficiency standards fail to cure dependence because this Jimmy Carter economic philosophy leads to increased energy consumption, not less. Thus far, the only way automobile manufacturers have been able to meet these high standards is to increase production of tiny, lightweight vehicles. As a result, more than 46,000 people have died in crashes they would have otherwise survived in larger, less fuel-efficient vehicles.

Obviously, no one is forcing you to buy a Mitsubishi Mirage. But if the price of gasoline rises significantly, which is a realistic scenario given the U.S. dependence on Mideast oil, many low-income people will have no choice but to drive environmentally friendly “death traps.”

Last Thursday was truly a day of fallacy. Thank heavens the polar bears are safe from a threat that was imaginary all along. Thank the Democrat-led Senate for forcing the American people to bear the burden of this fallacy.

Chris Routhe is a sophomore in applied economics. Send comments to [email protected]