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No, It's Not About Oil; Besides, Oil Is Good!

It is a measure of the weakness of the case against Sen. Murkowski's resolution of disapproval (S.J.Res.26) that opponents keep trying to change the subject.

They want to pretend that a vote for S.J.Res.26 is a vote for Big Oil in general and for BP's oil spill and all the associated ecological and economic damage in particular.

To say it again, if they really think oil is so bad that America should pay any price, bear any burden, and endure any sacrifice to get "beyond petroleum," then they should follow the Constitution and try to assemble legislative majorities capable of enacting their agenda.

They know they can't, so they want EPA -- an administrative agency -- to enact their agenda for them. That this makes a mockery out of our constitutional system of separated powers and democratic accountability doesn't seem to bother them one whit.

The vote on S.J.Res. 26 is not "about oil." The endangerment rule, which the Murkowski resolution would overturn, would not create a single tool or authority that could have averted the BP oil spill. It would not tighten a single petroleum industry safety standard or improve a single emergency response program. It would not create a single incentive that might have made BP more diligent in implementing safety standards.

The only way greenhouse gas regulations could stop oil spills is by making deep water drilling unprofitable. That, however, would make America more dependent on IMPORTED oil (duh!). Is that want opponents of S.J.Res.26 want?

They'll say, no, their goal is to "set America free" from dependence on petroleum as such. But that is not possible at reasonable cost, which is why despite decades of anti-petroleum agitation, fuel economy standards, and government support for alternative technologies and fuels, U.S. petroleum consumption and imports continue to increase.

At most, EPA's greenhouse gas emission standards can only decrease the rate at which U.S. petroleum consumption increases. More accurately, EPA's standards would only complicate and reduce the efficiency of the fuel economy program Congress created and amended via the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act and 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. As the National Automobile Dealers Association explains in a letter in support of S.J.Res.26, overturning the endangerment rule would help restore a more efficient approach: "a single national fuel economy standard, with rules set by Congress."

Finally, the notion that oil is bad and hence that government can't do too much to restrict petroleum production is benighted. Members of Congress who espouse this view either deliberately mislead the public or are ignorant of oil's historic and continuing massive contribution to the improvement of human health and welfare.

A recent post on a blog called The Intellectual Activist eloquently explains the common sense of the matter. I reproduce it below.

TIA Daily • June 4, 2010
FEATURE ARTICLE
Oil Is Good
by Jack Wakeland
I appreciated the pro-industrialism in last Friday's edition of TIA Daily:

I also think that we need to return to a more old-fashioned attitude toward industrial accidents. Today, they are considered utterly unacceptable catastrophes for one reason: a large segment of the culture does not accept that it is legitimate for heavy industry to exist at all and has a particular animus toward industries that generate power—including oil and coal. So they exploit every accident to promote their pre-existing agenda of shutting down all oil exploration. But if we accept that the Industrial Revolution is a good thing—that it has roughly doubled the average lifespan and vastly increased our quality of life—then we accept that the oil industry has to exist and that occasional accidents are just part of the cost of living.

With continuous 24-hour headline news coverage of this supposedly "unprecedented" disaster—in fact, it was preceded by the 10-month-long, 140 million-gallon Ixtoc 1 blowout off the gulf coast of Mexico in 1979—Rob Tracinski and Sarah Palin are among a tiny minority of American commentators who have voiced the opinion that industrial development is essential for civilization. Unfortunately Sarah Palin and almost all conservatives agree 100% with conservationism—the pre-New-Left version of environmentalism. They say that energy development as a "dirty" business—a necessary evil—that produces "dirty" messes. But we must endure the ugly mess if we are to enjoy the benefits of living a civilized existence.

Of all of the hundreds of commentaries written about the BP oil spill, I can't recall one single editorial that endorses oil drilling as good.

It is good for oil company stock holders. Good for industrial producers. Good for automobile and truck drivers. Good for people who travel by ship, railroad, or aircraft. Good for people who don't want to be limited to living out their whole lives without ever traveling farther than 100 miles from the village in which they were born.

Oil is good for people who buy products that are shipped to them from out of town. Good for producers who buy parts and supplies that are shipped in from out of town. Good for the specialization of industrial production that is made possible by mass shipment of parts and materials. Good for the geometrical growth of world-wide industrial productivity made possible by the specialization of production and trade.

Oil is good for farmers who use machines to plant and reap and store and dry and ship and process all of the food we eat. Good for farmers who use fertilizer and other agri-chemicals made from oil to boost the productivity of the land. Good for anyone who doesn't enjoy enduring bouts of malnutrition and starvation—and the occasional famine.

Oil is good for people who don't want to endure freezing indoor temperatures in the winter. Good for all producers and end users of lubricants, paints, plastics and other petro-chemical-based products. (Half of the volume of a barrel of crude oil ends up going to make fertilizers and plastics.)

Oil is good for powering all of the ships, trucks, aircraft, helicopters, communications equipment and base electrical systems, and all of the fighting vehicles that the US military use for our national defense. (Ask yourself why it was that when the US Army Air Force decided to destroy the entire nation of Germany in 1944—why was it that they bombed the oil refineries? Why was it that they bombed all modes of transportation to limit shipment between factories of unfinished industrial products?)

Oil drilling isn't a "dirty" business. It isn't a necessary evil. It is good. It is a life-giving good. It is an unqualified good.

The problems of an occasional industrial accident in which fewer than a dozen men are killed fades to nothing in comparison with the great comfort and prosperity and scope of life—including the operation of the mechanized agriculture and industrial production upon which the bare survival of the vast majority of the 6.5 billion human beings currently living on this earth depends.