The Washington Times - July 21, 2008, 07:42AM

To drill or not to drill…

A big discussion today is whether or not to open the way for oil drilling in the federally owned continental shelf off the coast. The President has removed executive restrictions and is pressing Congress to pass the necessary legislation to “lower our dependence on foreign oil.”


Maybe I’m in a bad mood or more cynical than usual, but I say go ahead and drill. It’s not for reasons you might think but from a lifetime of observing what goes on here in Washington. On the political side, it’s advantageous to suggest to one’s constituents that we should open up the fields (the ocean floor, in this case) to drilling. Getting at all that oil on U.S. property sounds good to millions of us who are struggling to make ends meet in order to fill the tank, but that’s not what would happen to the stuff. Oil is a commodity that’s sold on the world market to the highest bidders. The oil companies would, therefore, pump it out from under the ocean floor and ship it away to those who bought it - probably the Chinese or Indians. “Our” oil wouldn’t actually be “our” oil and although the overall amount would be increased in the above scenario, it would take 8-12 years to get it flowing if we started tomorrow.  In another decade, however, the world demand will have easily overtaken the additional supply so prices won’t significantly change in the long run.

The oil industry wants to drill because that is what they do. However, simply passing legislation to allow them access - without some major ground rules - will cost you and me billions because Congress (thanks to absolute control by lobbyists and other powerful special interests) is run by business, not voters. If Congress signals its intention to turn on the spigot you can bet the oil lobby will rush in and get all kinds of tax concessions and other incentives written into the bill. You and I will pay for it and the oil companies’ senior management will get spectacularly richer while “our” oil goes who-knows-where.

Environmentalists are against any drilling, of course, and cite a number of very probable scenarios in which catastrophic damage to our shores might occur. They have every reason to be concerned because science is on their side. More importantly, they know that Congress has degenerated to little more than institutionalized corruption and big businesses (thanks to deregulation and excessively immoral executive compensation) are motivated largely by greed.

If it sounds like I’m on the side of the environmentalists, I am. So why do I think we should drill? Because all of the issues pale into insignificance if we don’t address the real problem: world population is outstripping all technologies and resources capable of supporting it. Nobody wants to talk about that. No one wants to do anything about that, even the environmentalists. A quick study of the world’s fresh water, ocean fish, natural resources and arable land supplies will scare you, because all are in major decline and projected to be mostly depleted before the end of the century.

Add to that a world population projected to hit 9 billion by 2050 and it’s not hard to foresee catastrophic consequences including wars, famine and disease epidemics (with all due respects to Thomas Malthus) that could likely kill off billions. Even global warming takes a back seat to what an unchecked species population (us!) will do to the natural order. Nature, whether we like it or not, will always win out but that doesn’t mean the human race will do very well in the process.

Winston Churchill had it right when he said, “Americans can always be counted upon to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else.” Since the politicians, environmentalists, businesses, economists, scientists and religious leaders aren’t willing to work on the real problem, what’s a little more drilling going to hurt?