The National Catholic Review

During the 2008 Republican National Convention, shouts of "Drill, Baby, Drill" were heard from the galleries and also from the podium. They were referring to the idea of drilling for oil off America’s coastlines. This was presented as a relatively easy and thoroughly American way of dealing with the nation’s energy needs. Forget all the talk about the need for solar or wind or bio-fuels, ways of harnessing energy being developed in Europe but which evidently didn’t appeal to the GOP faithful gathered in St. Paul. Of course, even if we threw environmental concerns to the wind, there is not enough off-shore oil to actually stave off the day when we must end our addiction to fossil fuels, but why let a little thing like a fact get in the way.

Throwing environmental concerns to the wind does not seem like such an appealing choice today as it did then. The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is threatening to hit pristine areas of the Louisiana coastline at precisely the worst time as various species of birds and wildlife are busy nesting and mating in the fragile ecosystem at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Republican Congressman Anh "Joseph" Cao has called for a congressional inquiry and Governor Bobby Jindal has declared a state of emergency. Funny, just a few weeks ago, they were cheering former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin when she repeated the "Drill, Baby, Drill" mantra at a GOP confab in New Orleans, where, this morning, the smell of the oil spill is already filling the air.

I wish we Americans were not so addicted to our gas guzzling habits. I wish that we had the courage to insist on higher gasoline taxes like the rest of the world, taxes that would both drive down consumption and drive up revenue that could be directed towards alternate energies and mass transit and high-speed rail. I wish that we had political leadership – in either party – that would tell Americans what we need to hear, not what we want to hear, on the subject of energy. This is an issue that needs the government to act not as the Nanny State, but as the Tough Nanny State: We need to be spanked.

President Obama is not above reproach on this issue. Earlier this year, in calling for a bipartisan approach to energy, he reached out to Republicans by saying he was dropping his objection to off-shore drilling in key coastal areas. I thought at the time that his stated reasoning was phony, that he knew better, that the risks to the environment were not worth the relatively paltry yield in new oil. At least his administration gave approval to the Cape Cod wind farm this week, despite the objections of rich folk who do not want the view from their summer homes on the Cape, Nantucket and the Vineyard ruined by the huge turbines. Yes, they are ungainly to the eye, but people complained about the Eiffel Tower at first too. And, after the Supreme Court allowed the city of New London to confiscate the property of poor and middle-class folk so that wealthier taxpayers could have it, it is refreshing to see that all the wealth of the opposition to the wind farm, which confiscates no one’s land, was not enough to turn the government’s decision their way.

The place we need to drill is into our conscience, to ask ourselves why we are so unwilling to change our behavior even though it threatens to harm, in some cases significantly, the ecosystem we shall bequeath to our children. I understand that life is not without risk, that accidents on oil rigs and in coal mines will happen. But, we need to really focus the best minds of government and industry on devising new forms of renewable energy that will entail less risk of immediate and long-term environmental damage. It may be too late for the Louisiana coastline but, God willing, it is not too late for other coastlines.

 

Comments

JIM MCCREA | 4/30/2010 - 6:36pm
“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy: that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."                              John Kenneth Galbraith
 
"A progressive is someone who keeps making the same mistake, while a conservative is someone who prevents a mistake from ever being corrected."                                        G. K. Chesterton
KEVIN MULCAHY | 4/30/2010 - 12:22pm
Jeff (#14)
 
1.  You do not address the documented fact that income inequality has skyrocketed; I never denied that we are entrepreneurial, but the evidence is that the benefits have not been all that equally allocated.
2.  You merely assert that my facts are bad.  I've seen in several different sources reports on the top 25 hedge fund managers averaging $1 billion in income for 2009.  See the NY Times Business section (online) for March 31, 2010.  Don't trust the Times?  See the Wall Stret Journal for April 1, 2010.
3.  You are perhaps naive about the use of libraries.  Of course we are involved in all of those new technologies.  But we live in a capitalist society in which a great deal of business, scientific and technical information is proprietary in nature.  That is, those who control the information charge others for access.  I do not complain about that; it is simply the way things are.  But you might have a kindle and and Ipod, etc. but still need to pay for the content which is not all free on the web.  Check around on the price of things like the Science Direct package of science journals or Bloomberg Business terminals.  These are beyond the budgets of most individuals and are routinely accessed through library subscriptions.  Faculty and students at state or private institutions that cannot afford these subscriptions do not have access to the information for their research, coursework, or grant applications.  Providing access to such information is a great benefit to scientists, students, and entrepreneurs alike, creating a fertile seedbed for the kind of innovations I expect you endorse.
4.  We probably should simply agree to disagree on unions.  You should however recognize that private sector unions have largely disappeared in this country (nicely correlating with wage loss/stagnation).  And public sector unions are likely to follow.
5.  Liberals and others can like change and not endorse all changes.  The reality is that some changes are good; some not so good.
William Kurtz | 4/30/2010 - 12:19pm
Jeff Landry's last comment is thought-provoking, and his comment about liberals often not liking change has more than a grain of truth. Here's the irony: I think most people who consider themselves conservatives are that way because they dislike various changes over the years. BUT, conservative intellectuals and business leaders (most, though not all conservatives) like change, in fact they celebrate "creative destruction." What's more, most of the major changes to American life in the last century or so are due to private sector actions, not government decisions. The civil rights movement and Roe v. Wade are the exception.
Vince Killoran | 4/30/2010 - 12:13pm
I think MSW's final paragraph is especially a strong one: we are unwilling to change our behavior-but, of course, it will take significant pressure on our two major political parties.
 
it's not enough to do what politicians of both parties usually do: speak in generalities.  Even with the headlines this week on the Gulf oil spill politicians such as  a conservative Republican running for Congress in southern Louisiana  promises to "do everything I can to protect and preserve our coast" but takes contributions from the oil and gas industry.  The all-too-frequent insistence that "I'm a hunter" or "I love my coastline and would never hurt it" mentality is that it separates off just one aspect of environmental protection from the web of inextricable concerns. How do we break out of this way of thinking? 
Helena Loflin | 5/1/2010 - 2:51pm
"DRILL BABY DRILL!!!"
"SPILL BABY SPILL!!!"
"KILL BABY KILL!!!"
- Sarah (SCREECH!) Palin
 
 
Stanley Kopacz | 5/1/2010 - 12:11pm
"Second, there are numerous examples of safe and successful offshore exploration, drilling and production, the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, the Middle East, Western Africa, Brazil, China and yet environmentalists and others choose to ignore the successes and concentrate on one offshore failure in California which occuredyears ago".

Why didn't you subtract the Gulf of Mexico from your list?

"Since less than 50% of a barrel of crude oil is turned into gasoline,44 to 48 percent, the remaining 50+percent provides refinery gas, propane, butane,aviation gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene, diesel fuel, home heating oil, lubricating oils /greases for both transportation and industrial applications, feed stocks for petrochemical, detergents, plastics and rubber industries, fuels for marine shipping, asphalts for our roads and highways and last but not least military specification petroleum products".

Biologically-based substitutes can probably be found for most or all of these. SInce oil is a finite resource, we should start working on it now or don't we have the foresight?

"Are those who oppose importing crude oil advocating importation of the more expensive finished products or simply shutting down the industrial base of the United States?"

Our old industrial base has already been weakened by the exportation of labor to the low paid countries? The new one will probably be built in China, as well.
E.Patrick Mosman | 5/1/2010 - 8:04am
First the President did not propose to allow drilling on any offshore site. He announced "So today we're announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration, but in ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America's natural resources." Companies can explore without drilling but would undoubtedly need permits to drill to confirm their exploratory results. There is no guarantee that any drilling would ever take place. Second, there are numerous examples of safe and successful offshore exploration, drilling and production, the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, the Middle East, Western Africa, Brazil, China  and yet environmentalists and others  choose to ignore the successes and concentrate on one offshore failure in California which occuredyears ago.   Third, one point that appears to dominate the anti-drilling advocates is the almost total concern with replacing gasoline as a transportation fuel with something else, ethanol from any source, hydrogen and now “carbon-free electricity”. This is supposed to insure energy independence from importing ‘foreign’ crude oil. Since less than 50% of a barrel of crude oil is turned into gasoline,44 to 48 percent, the remaining 50+percent provides refinery gas, propane, butane,aviation gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene, diesel fuel, home heating oil, lubricating oils /greases for both transportation and industrial applications, feed stocks for petrochemical, detergents, plastics and rubber industries, fuels for marine shipping, asphalts for our roads and highways and last but not least military specification petroleum products. Are those who oppose importing crude oil advocating importation of the more expensive finished products or simply shutting down the industrial base of the United States?
Anonymous | 4/30/2010 - 5:55pm
''Most of the rise in income inequality has to do with a decline in tax rates on income and investment returns. It has declined of late due to the drop in asset and housing prices. The other systemic factor is the rise in the celebrity CEO and the ability of these individuals to pack their compensation committees and boards of directors with cronies. This is a failure in capitalism itself, since management often acts in its own interests rather than those of the shareholders.''
 
Well at least your faithful to your tired trollopes.  We get it - you want higher taxes on anything and everything, most disastrously, capital gains taxes, thereby shredding the incentive to invest.  More government dependency, less profitability, please.
 
Re: boards of directors.  With all respect, you have no idea what you are talking about.  All the major exchanges have required, since 2002 and Sarbanes-Oxly, a majority of boards to be independent directors, i.e. directors who are not ''connected'' to the company.  In interacting with directors on publicly-traded companies, they ''good ole boy network'' is a thing of the past, primarily because of the expense of serving as a director.  Plaintiff's lawyers routinely sue corporations and their boards upon the slightest dip in their stock price (see: ''strike suits''), and the insurance premiums most companies pay in D&O insurance is astronomical as a result.  The requirements for board service are, in short, so burdensome (not necessarily unreasonably so) that even if a CEO were to name his friends to the board, they are not likely to remain so friendly.  And for every ''celebrity CEO'' you think you know, there are probably 10 times as many hard-working conscientious CEOs of companies that you have never heard of doing what they know to be in their best interest: maximizing shareholder value.  Economic analysis shows that in the long-run, management interests and shareholder interests overlap.  
 
Oh, and all those ''celebrity CEOs'' you're probably referring to are all big-time Democratic donors and friends of Barak.
KEVIN MULCAHY | 4/30/2010 - 4:56pm
Jeff,
 
Detroit suffered from more than high union contracts.  They stayed with large, gas-guzzling vehicles a bit too long, and were unable to shift quickly enough to smaller models.  Problems like those experienced by the automotive industry are complex, and blaming the unions, which after all negotiated contracts with the auto makers (no force was used), is perhaps too easy an answer.  Why should not workers share in the prosperity they helped to create?  And of course unions have been more than held in check in our country.  As mentioned earlier they are disappearing from the private sector, and the wages and benefits of manufacturing workers are plummeting as a result.
 
And library use is also a more complex issue.  Much of it is invisible because so much is done online-reading books, journal articles, statistical databases; seeking research assistance; even checking out and renewing books.  And as mentioned before, public libraries have had a real spike in use.  I wonder if at least some conservatives underestimate the role of the public sector in our economic vitality.  Even the most visionary entrepreneur relies on our highways and bridges to transport his goods; relies on having an educated workforce (and educated consumers).  I worry that in this regard we are living off of our capital, and as the public sector suffers, we'll all suffer. 
Beth Cioffoletti | 4/30/2010 - 4:51pm
One of my clients recently showed me a financial statement with $90 million of holdings.  He told me that in 1982, when he retired, he put about a million dollars with that particular exclusive investment group.  By his doing absolutely nothing, that money had multiplied itself almost 100-fold.  His comment - I made a hell of a lot more money after I stopped working!
I puzzle over whether he is a smart man, a lucky man, or if it is all irrelevant in the bigger scheme of things.  Meanwhile, the minimum wage, figuring in inflation, has decreased for working Americans.
Even my rich client recognizes that there is something wrong with this picture.
Michael Bindner | 4/30/2010 - 4:42pm
Most of the rise in income inequality has to do with a decline in tax rates on income and investment returns. It has declined of late due to the drop in asset and housing prices. The other systemic factor is the rise in the celebrity CEO and the ability of these individuals to pack their compensation committees and boards of directors with cronies. This is a failure in capitalism itself, since management often acts in its own interests rather than those of the shareholders. Shareholder control is at an all-time low, since mutual fund managers separate the owners from active management on most issues and consider mostly short term factors rather than the long term health of the enterprise. Fund managers have also designed ways to maximize their fees and often play to a captive audience.

None of this has anything to do with the discussion at hand, except perhaps as it relates to speculation in the futures market. 60 Minutes did an interesting piece on this and their were hearings. One wonders whether the drop in these accounts pushed a few portfolios over the edge, causing a cascade of people selling other assets to cover their bad positions. The timing is about right for a late-summer/early-fall 2008 oil bust to set off the bust of other bad paper assets. It will be interesting to see if a market shock occurs again when the current oil bubble is popped - and it will pop because its rise is not based solely on product supplies. Gas should be closer to $2 a gallon.
Anonymous | 4/30/2010 - 4:33pm
"Unions and government regulations are necessary checks and balances on business.  The three should exist in a healthy and creative tension, each holding in check the excesses of the other two."
-Couldn't agree more; so why aren't the unions held in check?  Their cushy benefit plans were the number 1 reason American car makers had to be bailed out & aren't competitive.  Yet, in the negotiations, Obama cut them a special deal.  Ditto on the health care bill & "cadillac" health plans.
 
""Who uses libraries?" was all I needed to read to know that Mr. Landry lives in the land of prosperity-as-evidence-of-virtue."
-Way to really represent that famous liberal open-mindedness & tolerance, Ms. Jayjack.  I love it when people can deduce everything about me from a three word sentence.  I agree libraries serve a function, especially for those who do not have access to technology.  My point, however, is that this number is increasingly smaller & from observing the students at my state university library, some of the "service" being slashed are not being used.
KEVIN MULCAHY | 4/30/2010 - 4:02pm
Jeff,
 
1.  Better education is a factor, but I do not think it can explain the concentration of wealth at the very height of the pyramid-not the folks who are professionals and managers but the wealthiest owners.  Arguably Sam Walton deserves to be fabulously wealthy because of his entrepreurial genius, but the wealth of his family has been estimated at $90 billion, and most of the family simply had the genius to be related to him.  I wish there were an exact correlation between education/hard work and wealth, but it appears to be a rather weaker correlation.
2.  $1 billion per year is the average for the top 25; the highest earned $4 billion in 2009.
3.  Libraries are heavily used but in different ways.  We answer questions via e-mail, chat, and probably soon (if not already) we'll incorporate twitter, facebook, video conferencing.  And we're lending e-book readers (as well as the content), DVDs, audio books, etc., etc.  Libraries serve as an information commons.  No individual (except for the Walton family and a few others) can subscribe to the thousands of journals and databases libraries do, and thus we give everyone who is willing to study the means to succeed.  We are a resource for consumers and small business people and inventors.  Good capitalists should treasure libraries, which are constantly evolving to support the country's economic, political, and cultural activities.
4.  Unions like other organizations and institutions surely have abuses in need of reform (shall we mention our Church and Wall Street in this context?), but take a look at the comparative wages of union and non-union workers.  Unions were one part of the enormous expansion of the American middle class after WWII.  And they grew because of the economic hardships and brutal working conditions workers usually endured in a purely laissez fair economy.  Unions and government regulations are necessary checks and balances on business.  The three should exist in a healthy and creative tension, each holding in check the excesses of the other two.
Anonymous | 4/30/2010 - 4:01pm
If anyone is interested in an intellectual discussion of the differences between liberals and conservatives, here is one point of view in a set of 5 videos.
 
http://tv.nationalreview.com/uncommonknowledge/post/?q=OTkzNzE1ZTk5YTIwNzg4MmU4NTJiOWY4MDMyNzhmMjU=
 
http://tv.nationalreview.com/uncommonknowledge/post/?q=NzAwNTdjOTM1MzZiMmY4MGQ5MWRjMDljZWJhMGYyM2Y=
 
http://tv.nationalreview.com/uncommonknowledge/post/?q=YWJhZjZjNjA4NmU1YWI3ZGJmNjI3ZWU2YTNkZjk1NDI=
 
http://tv.nationalreview.com/uncommonknowledge/post/?q=NTQzZGFlYjBhMTU0ZjU5MDJkZTU5NWQ0N2M5Y2Q5NTk=
 
http://tv.nationalreview.com/uncommonknowledge/post/?q=ODkyNWM3ZTVjNzIzMjYzNmQzZTc0MjVjYmQ2NDIxZTc=
Gabriel Marcella | 4/30/2010 - 3:35pm
Please let's not make up facts. The price of gas recently went down because:
1. US drivers are driving less and there are high reserves.
2. The Chinese economy is slowing down and gas consumption is expected to decline.
3. US economic recovery is still fragile.
4. A stronger dollar.

Catherine Jayjack | 4/30/2010 - 3:26pm
"Who uses libraries?" was all I needed to read to know that Mr. Landry lives in the land of prosperity-as-evidence-of-virtue.  Sorry, but access to all of the tecghnologies he mentions are beyond the means of not only the very poor, but often of the paycheck-to-paycheck working poor (what we used to call the middle class before they began the slide to extinction).  Believe it or not, there are people in this world who live without computers, not by choice but by necessity. If education is key to prosperity, how is it somehow magically to be accomplished without free (read taxpayer-supported) access to knowledge and strong, respected teachers?
I have very little faith in government solutions to ethical/societal problems, at least until our lawmakers are elected without relying on private money, but only government can get some of the new energy technologies off the ground until they become profitable, and they can only do that by using a lot of taxpayer money.  It only seems just that taxes on consumption and eliminating some of the tax breaks and/or subsidies for the very rich producers currently in place could be used to fuel this development. 
Anonymous | 4/30/2010 - 2:53pm
Kevin:
 
1. I did address the fact about income distribution; I said the reason for this is the changing nature of the US economy away from blue collar, low-knowledge manufacturing and into the more white/green-collar economy.  And as I already said, the reason for this is education, not some nefarious conservative plot to stiff middle class people.  I am more educated than my parents, and make more money than the do.  That used to be the American dream.  The best way to achieve that, still, is to stay in school and get educated, not to simply re-distribute income that someone considers "obscene".
 
2. To clarify, is that an average figure for the entire 25 or an individual?  
 
3. I'm not against libraries, but I honestly don't think they are or should be serving the purposes they once did, and thus their use has declined (as with the US Post Office).  I think I am in total agreement with your vision of the library, i.e. doing core work.
 
4. Deal, but I wish I could share your optimism about public sector unions disappearing.  Those bloated pieces of...well, I guess I should stop.  Funny, though, that the only people you hear cheering for the "Employee Free Choice Act" are the union big wigs rather than the individual workers.
Michael Bindner | 4/30/2010 - 1:40pm
First, BP is responsible for all cleanup costs, not the taxpayer

Second: The price of gas his high right now because of oil speculation, not lack of supply. It went down when people made noises about regulation. Now, I fear that bailed out companies are doing the speculation, with the complicity of the White House. The media won't investigate due to conflicts of interest (sponsors, owners, not wanting to tick off the White House).
KEVIN MULCAHY | 4/30/2010 - 12:32pm
One further point on libraries.  Public libraries in particular have been one of the great engines of social and economic mobility in this country.  They provide access to books of course, but also to proprietary business and technical information, they lend equipment, they provide workshops on using computers, jobseeking, and many other skills.  And use has increased dramatically during the economic woes.  I would have thought that such institutions would be valued by liberals and conservatives, by entrepreneurs and workers.  Sadly library branches are closing, reducing hours, cutting services, and finding themselves unable to afford access to key information.  If you are a capitalist who believes that people have a right to make money from the information they control, it might be wise to support libraries so that a higher proportion of Americans have access to that information.
Anonymous | 4/30/2010 - 11:49am
Mr. Mulcahy:
1. "The principal beneficiaries are the people most heavily involved in financial markets, not necessarily the scientists and entrepreneurs.  Those who used to own a lot, now own even more-absolutely and proportionately-than ever before, and there is increasing evidence that much of the gains came through manipulation of the markets."
- I don't think the evidence bears you out on this; America remains the most entreprenurial (sp) society in the world; my state university just hired a new scientist to head its biomedical research facility at an annual salary of $450,000 a year; my state is about to develop a state of the art research hospital with a large amount focused on biomedical entreprenurial research.  Yes, there are some very rich people on Wall St.  Yes, they're pay has sky-rocketed (along with, overall, the value of 401(k) & other pension plans), but that fact alone doesn't mean that much.
 
2. "Hedge fund managers averaging $1 billion in income in 2009 (essentially for clever bets on abtruse financial formulas) are vital wealth creators, but teachers (none of whom are above the middle class, many of whom buy schools supplies out of their own pockets) are somehow fat cats."
- Again, bad facts. I now of no hedge fund manager who averaged a billion dollars in take home pay in 2009; and I didn't say teachers are fat cats.  What i said are teachers unions are fat cats.  And they are: they stand in the way of reform while pocketing dollars from taxpayers and sit by while schools continue to perform poorly.  Same with the car unions: do you KNOW how much their very very cushy benefit plans cost you when you buy a car?
 
3. "For the library and its patrons, this will mean fewer books, access to fewer databases, fewer computers for student use, and reduced services to students and scholars."
- Who uses libraries with ipads, ipods, iphones, laptops, kindle, amazon...? Some libraries have gotten ahead of the curve by re-tooling and cutting costs, focusing on core missions like archiving and research assistance.  
 
Its amazing to me how liberals who so often themes of "change" & "progress" so often bitterly complain about actual change and shifts in society.
Stanley Kopacz | 4/30/2010 - 11:45am
"Grownups have to make the tough decisions while children like Mr. Winters can pontificate."

Perhaps we should leave the determination of who are children and who are grownups to those living in the twenty-second century, if any. The greatest naivete is to believe that what makes money (a useful fiction within limits) is good for us, whether blue-collar, white-collar, or gold-collar. I see no reason why this should be automatically true.

A great deal of the economy depends on people buying garbage they don't need. For the economic benefit, should we encourage people to buy useless garbage? Should we suffer permanent losses to our land for the same reason?
KEVIN MULCAHY | 4/30/2010 - 11:24am
You might have missed my point, Jeff.  Yes, our new economy has certainly created much more wealth, but it is the distribution of that wealth that is at question.  The principal beneficiaries are the people most heavily involved in financial markets, not necessarily the scientists and entrepreneurs.  Those who used to own a lot, now own even more-absolutely and proportionately-than ever before, and there is increasing evidence that much of the gains came through manipulation of the markets.  The Republican promise was that their economic policies would lift all the boats but the data call that into question.  Again, wealth is more concentrated at the top than it has been for decades, and most of the limited increase in middle class income comes from two earner families, not better wages. 
 
I'm not a public school teacher, nor a public school alum, but I'm saddened by the demonization of teachers and their unions.  Hedge fund managers averaging $1 billion in income in 2009 (essentially for clever bets on abtruse financial formulas) are vital wealth creators, but teachers (none of whom are above the middle class, many of whom buy schools supplies out of their own pockets) are somehow fat cats.  This seems a bit like rooting for the Dallas Cowboys playing a pickup team of high school kids.  In our quite non-egalitarian economy, how can teachers be considered "fat cats"?
 
I'm a librarian at a state university, and my Republican governor's reforms include deep cuts in our budget.  For the library and its patrons, this will mean fewer books, access to fewer databases, fewer computers for student use, and reduced services to students and scholars.  Elsewhere in the university there will be fewer and more crowded classes, aging facilities, and instructors not rehired.  Precisely how this reform supports a knowledge based economy is not immediately clear to me.  Note that state univerities like mine generally appeal to first generation college students-not the economic elite-so our students are likely to be disadvantaged in future economic competition.
Stanley Kopacz | 4/30/2010 - 11:12am
"That doesn't mean I don't expect BP to be sued out the whazoo (as they should be, and Louisiana should be the lead plaintiff)."

Yeah, assuming you can assign a monetary value to what is about to be lost. Civil suit is the last resort after a great injustice has been committed. Think of BP as OJ. ANd even if you do win the suit, you can't make up for what was lost in the first place. It would have been better if OJ's wife was protected in the first place.

As with nuclear power, accidents will eventually happen, even if corporations really cared about safety more than profit. If there is a permanent downside, the loss of productive, usable land, the technology just should not be pursued, period.

Short term profits, long term loss, the modern capitalist way.

Between bought-off Democrats and money-worshipping Republicans, the future looks pretty bleak.
Anonymous | 4/30/2010 - 11:11am
One of the problems that restricting the use of oil, coal and natural gas is that there are no alternatives on the horizon either in the short term or medium term.  I listened to one expert last year say that wind and solar make up about 2% of our energy supply now and in about 10 years could reach as much as 5%.  And each has substantial maintenance costs.
 
Holding our breaths and using less energy sounds good but unfortunately it will increase unemployment big time.  It is a side benefit of lower activity that we employ fewer people.  Now, some can say that there will be ways to employ them but that is another easier said than done objective.  We are witnessing the effects of a cut back now with near 10% unemployment and close to 20% under employed.  Taxing or restricting energy use will only increase that substantially.  If you are one of the 20% then you may not like that.
 
So pie in the sky dreams are nice but reality says otherwise.  So Drill, Baby, Drill is a realization that we need energy to fuel our activity and that it is better to pay ourselves for the energy than some terrorist state.  Grownups have to make the tough decisions while children like Mr. Winters can pontificate.  Every attempt to create a heaven on earth has resulted in hell.
Anonymous | 4/30/2010 - 10:16am
"Frankly, really well-off Americans, to say nothing of the economic elite, are scarcely overburdened with taxes right now; there has been a well-documented shift of wealth and income to the very wealthiest Americans over the last few decades, with minimal growth, stagnation, or even losses for the vast majority of Americans.  I'm not talking socialism, merely a modest adjustment in tax rates for the common good."
 
Yes, you are right about this shift, but is the result of a fundamentally changed economy (the so-called knowledge economy).  The single most important factor between what side of this line you fall on is education, not some nefarious conservative plot to re-distribute in an upward direction.  Sound education reforms supported by and pioneered by Republicans (primarily governors such, yes, George W. Bush) and blocked repeatedly by the Democrats in humble service to the fat cat teachers unions is the most effective leveling mechanism, not increased taxes on people and increased government spending.
KEVIN MULCAHY | 4/30/2010 - 10:06am
Jeff (#2)-I trust you realize that you are exaggerating quite a bit.  Just for one example, I do not believe America has called for a tax on prayer, fasting, helping one's neighbors, or reading the scriptures, all admirable human activities.  But even allowing for your exaggeration, you might consider three points.  One is that a complex and interrelated society such as ours does need some tax revenue to function-defense, police, roads, schools, libraries, courts, bridges, etc.  Anarchic societies tend to be unpleasant places to live, unless you happen to be the biggest warlord.  Two, Obama and the Democrats actually passed a significant income tax cut for most Americans.  Three, since government needs revenue, it might make sense to tax activities that should be discouraged for the public good (cigarettes, for one example).  We should be looking to discourage the present level of fossil fuel consumption, for environmental, economic, and political reasons.  Tax gas, and figure a way of cutting other taxes (especially on lower income families and individuals) so that the burden is minimized for those least able to bear it.  Frankly, really well-off Americans, to say nothing of the economic elite, are scarcely overburdened with taxes right now; there has been a well-documented shift of wealth and income to the very wealthiest Americans over the last few decades, with minimal growth, stagnation, or even losses for the vast majority of Americans.  I'm not talking socialism, merely a modest adjustment in tax rates for the common good.
Anonymous | 4/30/2010 - 9:51am
Oh, and how could I forget:"DRILL BABY DRILL!!!!" 
Anonymous | 4/30/2010 - 9:51am
Cue the environmental alarmists.
 
I am a Louisianian & a New Orleanian.  I am outraged at the accident & genuinely terrified of what damage it will do to wildlife & ecosystem (especially my beloved oysters).  BUT it should not derail increased production.  Nobody in their right mind believes that increased domestic production is a long-term panacea (typical Winters's straw man).  However, increased production increases good-paying blue collar jobs (which I think most liberals lament the loss of), and decreases America's reliance on foreign oil.  The reason this explosion has been difficult to contain is because these things never happen & therefore are hard to prepare for.  That doesn't mean I don't expect BP to be sued out the whazoo (as they should be, and Louisiana should be the lead plaintiff).  
 
As far as changing American habits, its funny to see liberals appear mystified at the stubborn habits of a nation, as if they are amazed that you can just change behavior at the whim of a pen signing a new tax bill.  Conservatives rightly understand the difficulties of ''change'', especially writ large.  If liberals show some epistemic humility in light of this reality, they might find a more receptive audience than the doom and gloom profits like Gore (from his Belle MEade expanse).
 
And given the Cape Cod situation, I refuse to be lectured by any more limousine liberals about the dangers of drilling.
Stanley Kopacz | 4/30/2010 - 9:21am
Since the government has paid trillions for oil wars, it makes sense to tax gasoline to recover these hidden costs and for oil spill cleanups, though these disasters are never really cleaned up, like trying to unkill somebody. It should also pay for cleanup of the messes.

I can hear the defenders of the "free" market a-coming with argumentation about how this will negatively affect the economy. But it's a matter of paying what you should for what you get. Otherwise, money is not even the useful fiction it is which is supposed to at least slightly reflect reality.

But, what the heck, don't worry, be happy.
Beth Cioffoletti | 4/30/2010 - 8:25am
The tremendous profits of the oil companies should be used to clean up this mess, but fat chance the stockholders will stand for that.  THe rich guys have a way of always winning.
We've been duped into believing that our economic security depends upon our unbridled consumption.  Mother Earth has a way of setting things straight.  Hopefully we will come to our senses before it is too late.
Jeff Bagnell | 4/30/2010 - 8:09am
 
"Drive down consumption and drive up revenue"?  It works exactly the opposite.   
 
But regardless, it's entertaining to read a publication that hasn't never stopped calling for higher taxes on every possible human activity.  This is the one play in the Democrat party's playbook.
Stanley Kopacz | 4/30/2010 - 7:31am
The wind farm in Cape Cod was opposed by Sen. Edward Kennedy along with those who were afraid of their beautiful view being compromised. Compare that with the view in the Gulf now with the creeping oil spill about to ruin the ecology in Louisiana as well as the fishing livelihoods of those who depend on it. Goodbye sustainable occupations for the sake of a short term buck.

How ironic. Shortly after Obama proposes the expansion of offshore drilling and the building of two more terrorist targets, excuse me, nuclear power plants, this happens. As if the Exxon Valdez disaster wasn't lesson enough.

Of course, the big companies say, "We have all these engineers and scientists. Don't worry, we know what we're doing." "Don't worry, I know what I'm doing" is the same thing that I told my mother fifty years ago just before I set the dining room table on fire with my chemistry set.

In the meantime, I see car after car on my Route 80 commute without a passenger. This minimal bit of cooperative activity could almost halve the usage of oil in commuting, and actually make the highway transportation system work by eliminating traffic jams. The irrationality of it all.