Energy security and natural disasters

Energy security and natural disasters

Lewis Letter to the Editor in the Washington Times
October 06, 2005

Reps. Jim Saxton and Eliot Engel claim the destruction inflicted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita "has been a jarring reminder of our over reliance on oil" ("Energy security and oil dependence," Commentary, Monday). But Katrina and Rita also left millions of people without food, water, electricity, medicine and housing. 

Does that mean we are overly reliant on those necessities, too? Do Mr. Saxton and Mr. Engel think disaster-induced shortages of housing, electricity, etc. are good reasons for politicians to try and end our "dependence" on such essentials?

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Saxton and Mr. Engel ignore their own role in weakening U.S. energy security. One reason so much energy infrastructure is located in hurricane alley is that politicians of anti-supply-side bent have enacted moratoriums prohibiting oil and gas operations on the Atlantic Coast, the California coast and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

In their eagerness to regulate Americans into "energy-efficient" (read: smaller, less-crash-worthy, more expensive) cars, Mr. Saxton and Mr. Engel forget that widespread lack of car ownership contributed directly to Katrina's high death toll.

As economist Randal O'Toole points out, about one-third of New Orleans households did not own cars, compared to about 10 percent in most other cities. Car-less households cannot easily evacuate before disaster strikes and so are more likely to remain in harm's way.

By making car ownership or operation less affordable, oil-suppression policies such as tougher fuel-economy standards, alternative-fuel mandates and carbon taxes (or their regulatory equivalents) would reduce the ability of low-income families to provide for their own safety in future natural disasters.