Sending our jobs to Texas in a pipe isn’t patriotic; it’s just stupid! As the Big Oil spokeswoman says on TV, “Now, that’s something we can all agree on.” Look at the map and tell us why we would want to pump crude oil from border to border when all the finished products have to be trucked back north again.
Transportation is a major cost of everything we buy and the cost of doubling the distance is a cost consumers nationwide shouldn’t have to bear. Not so many years ago a reporter, predicting the fall of the communism in Russia summed it up with a shot of two trains passing on a bridge in St. Petersburg, one going east and one going west both filled to capacity with coal. His argument was that capitalism can do better and with your help it still can.
Voters in Iowa are being told they should approve a plan to build a pipeline from one corner of the state to the other creating jobs and helping the economy. They want us to buy into 42,000 temporary jobs when we could as easily create even more good permanent ones. What do they take us for, Chumps? I’ll propose a compromise; build the pipeline half way and use the rest of the money to build a refinery in central Iowa. The Iowa labor force will deliver both faster and cheaper.
Remember, when we built the transcontinental railroad from one end of the country to the other, we did it because it made sense, not because of subsidies for Texas oil billionaires.
Some of us remember the long gas lines in the ’70s when the world was running out of oil, or so we were led to believe. Even if you don’t remember, you can still see the lingering fear that we will run out and become dependent on Arab oil. The political climate in which we heavily subsidize the most lucrative industry on earth has persisted through 40 years of change. Today when we are facing a glut of oil with prices at just $30.00 a barrel, you might think oil companies are hurting. Not so, Hilcorp, “one the largest privately held oil and natural gas exploration and production companies in the United States,” according to KTVU, just gave every one of its 1,380 employees $100,000 Christmas bonus thanks to taxpayer subsidies. If the shortage in the ’70s wasn’t a ruse in the first place, paying companies to find more oil, might have made sense then, but today we have located enough oil reserves in North America to last 100 years and plummeting oil prices are collapsing world markets. We should be paying them to leave it in the ground until prices stabilize.
And what better way to say to our enemies, “We will never again be held hostage to oil”, than by boasting untapped reserves.
Propping up world markets or maintaining a reserve big enough to guarantee energy independence for years to come, aren’t even the best reasons to leave it in the ground. The plain fact is the cost of oil has been rising for a long time. It’s not the price at the pump we should be worried about; it’s impact of fossil fuels on global warming. Sending our jobs to Texas in a pipe may be stupid, but flushing our future “down the tube” would be insane. The argument that because weather is cyclical, we should do nothing, is ludicrous, not because it’s false but because it simply doesn’t matter. When your lifeboat is filling with water, you bail first and ask why later.
The price of fossil fuels is cheaper than many clean energy alternatives, while the cost of burning them is soaring. The price of oil needs to be higher for clean energy to compete. Big oil companies and big oil countries know this. That’s why unlike prior years, we aren’t seeing OPEC raising the price of a barrel. We aren’t seeing refineries being shut down for extended periods “for repairs” to create regional shortages. What we are seeing is oil ads dredging up an old debunked study claiming ethanol produces more of one dangerous pollutant, ozone that will “lead to a 4 percent increase in the number of ground level ozone-related deaths.” I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an ozone-related death. Next we can expect to hear how Iowa wind farms, not global warming is generating dangerous storms.
This nation is blessed with a wealth of natural resources and the technology to apply them efficiently. Let’s hope we have the will to use them wisely.
Using resources wisely means pricing fossil fuels to match their cost.
We’ve long used gas tax and road use taxes as a way to pay for maintaining our roads. Everyone understands this is fair because those who use the roads the most will pay the most. So there’s nothing new or radical about the idea that industries who pollute the most should pay the most. Surprisingly the resistance to common sense approaches like “cap and trade” comes from my own conservative wing, who have traditionally believed “supply and demand” is the best way to build an efficient model. We’ve been fooled too many times by cleaver ads and bogus scientific theories. It’s time to take responsibility for preserving the bounty we are blessed with for the sake of our grandchildren.