In Defense of Oil Exploration

How in good conscience can someone defend the practice of off-shore oil drilling in the wake of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?

I don’t know how one’s conscience could allow for anything but.

The incident in the Gulf is obviously a tragedy from which lessons must be learned, but it shouldn’t scare us away from the natural resource that is oil.

The Left seems to think sun and wind are free gifts from mother earth but that oil is some nefarious un-natural concoction created by Dick Cheney and Dow Chemical. Oil, too, is from the earth. It is just as natural as the sun or the air.

Our ability to harness the earth’s petroleum resources has perhaps been the single most impactful discovery…ever. It fueled the second Industrial Revolution; helped end society’s acceptance of child labor; brought clean water and heat and electric light to the masses; helped us advance from an agrarian society where our lives were dictated by the seasons; helped women become recognized as productive wage earners; lengthened the life expectancy and increased the standard and quality of life for peoples across the globe.

We can’t run away from Oil because it is icky or because people and animals die when tragedies like this happen.

We must appreciate that our ability to safely and efficiently harness natural resources helps promote freedom, liberty and equal opportunity for prosperity. We must do all that we can to manage and mitigate the risk associated with this endeavor, but we cannot walk away from it. Oil is essential to fuel prosperity in a modern world. Certainly, the oil supply is extremely volatile both due to the risks associated with exploration and the political realities of OPEC. While we obviously need to continue to explore more politically-viable sources of energy for the future, we can’t abandon the resources we know are available.

Oil and natural gas account for sixty percent of our energy supply. Disrupting this equation would result in a massive transfer of wealth from the private sector. Trendy ‘green’ sources of energy like solar and wind are heavily subsidized and not particularly efficient (I’ve  written in the past about the inefficiencies and high cost of solar and wind). When consumers pay for solar and wind, a substantial portion of those monies go to fund the government subsidies which promote their use.

We need oil. We know where to get it. We shouldn’t let accidents scare us off from pursuing it. Instead, when a mess like the Deepwater Horizon disaster takes place, we need to fix it, learn from it and prevent it from happening in the future.

But the Left, predictably, simply uses tragedies like the one on the BP rig as an opportunity to bash business once again, and to push for a Luddite-inspired, pre-Industrial Revolution, horse-and-buggy/windmill economy wherein citizens must rely upon the State, and not themselves, for opportunities to improve their lot in life.

Each week, the website asks me and lefty Scot Ross of One Wisconsin Now to engage in exchanges on a topic of our choosing.

From my latest ‘That’s Debatable’ entry, wherein oil exploration was the topic:

You offer the false choice of no drilling or status quo.  Personally, I support the “Drill, Baby, Drill” and everything else plan. Let’s build some damn nuke plants while we’re at it.  We should be pursuing all domestic sources we know exist; that includes the oil in the Gulf of Mexico, ANWR in Alaska and public lands in the Dakotas and elsewhere. And we should invest in creating new technologies and exploring new sources of energy that make economic sense. Scot, how is our national security improved if we fail to tap into the resources we have here and instead are beholden to foreign government cartels like OPEC?  How is our economic security improved if we abandon oil and coal and instead rely totally on the more expensive, less reliable and less efficient solar and wind?  I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m obviously not silent about this. The incident in the Gulf is a tragedy, but it shouldn’t scare us away from the natural resource that is oil. I thought PROGRESS was the root of progressive? Why the call for retreat?

The Left’s demand for a risk-free world is not only pure fantasy, it is dangerous. A retreat from proven sources of energy, without affordable and efficient alternatives, not only denies the benefits society has reaped from oil, it destabilizes our economy and our national security.

But it certainly won’t stop the Left from using this tragedy as a bogeyman.

By Brian Fraley
A MacIver Institute Perspective