Sunday, April 22 , 2018, 2:15 am | Fair 53º

 
 
 

Harris Sherline: No Drilling — Nowhere, No How, No Way?

What we need are realistic policies and long-term energy planning, and less finger pointing

With world events once again threatening to disrupt oil sources in many parts of the world (Egypt, Iraq, Venezuela and Libya, to name a few), the price of gas in America is headed north.

Recent headlines graphically highlight the situation: “U.S. Chicago Gas Prices Spike 6 Cents Overnight” (CNN), “Drilling for an Oil Crisis” (The New York Times), “Rising Oil Prices Pose New Threat to U.S. Economy” (The New York Times), “Highest Gas Prices in February Since 1990, Attributed to Libya Turmoil” (ABC), “Oil Surges 6% as Libya Tension Intensifies” (CNNMoney.com) and “Despite Oversupply, U.S. Gas Prices Leap” (CNN).

A comparison of recent weekly U.S. retail gasoline prices (regular grade) shows that price increases have been relatively consistent around the nation, with an overall increase of 53 cents per gallon in the past year and current average retail prices ranging from $2.95 in Billings, Mont., to $3.54 in San Francisco. It’s close to $4 per gallon in Santa Barbara County.

However, the price of a gallon of gasoline in America is predicted to ultimately rise to unprecedented levels of $6, $8, $10 per gallon — and higher.

The long-term consequences of this are dramatic, ranging from eventually driving the airlines out of business to forcing a drastic change in automobile design and other modes of transportation, including trains, as well as the way future communities are likely to be designed.

However, it appears that higher gas prices have not yet produced any visible change in the attitude of opponents to drilling for oil in the United States, whose mantra is, “No drilling for oil in ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), in coastal waters or anywhere else in America. No how, no way, not ever,” as they travel to and from meetings and demonstrations by air and auto, polluting the atmosphere with fumes as they go.

But where are they when it comes to drilling in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Indonesia, Mexico, offshore Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, Libya, Russia, China, etc.?

Why aren’t they as concerned about polluting the environment throughout the rest of the world? Or are residents of the good ol’ U.S. of A the only people in the world who should be protected from eeeevil capitalists and big business? Furthermore, haven’t we been told that pollution spreads through the atmosphere? So, are we in America also at risk from the effects of oil drilling in other parts of the world where there are only minimal or no environmental controls?

Here’s a thought: Why not have all those who vehemently oppose oil drilling and those who favor it move to parts of the country that are best suited to their personal philosophy? Have the people who are against it move to those places that have no oil, and those who support it move to the areas that do. That way, each side can have what it wants without feeling the need to prevent the other from having what it believes is best.

Another possibility might be to have those people who oppose oil drilling at any cost to simply stop using it. They can ride bikes, walk and use other alternative modes of transportation to get around. And they can only use power that is generated from renewable, nonpolluting sources, such as wind, solar, biomass, ocean waves, etc. Of course, they would also have to forgo all the things that are made from oil derivatives, including plastics, prescription drugs and the many hundreds of other products that are an important adjunct to our superior standard of living.

Yes, I know, these are silly ideas. But is it any sillier than the political posturing, maneuvering and misrepresentation that both sides constantly engage in trying to have their own way?

Perhaps everyone should get real.

Opponents of unfettered oil and coal usage extol the merits of alternative sources of energy and conservation — and they are right, to a point. The problem with their position is that none of the alternatives has yet been developed to the point where it is economically feasible, which appears to be a long way off.

Free-market thinkers, who seem to believe the search for oil and independence from the politics of world energy must go forward with no holds barred or we run the risk of becoming a Third World nation, may also have a point. They argue that preventing drilling in the United States forces us to deal with unstable governments and mercurial leaders around the world, many of whom hate us. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is the poster child for this problem.

But above all, Americans should stop allowing themselves to be blindly led down either path — both of which have the potential of ending in a national disaster.

What America needs at this point is more reality-based policies, realistic long-term energy planning, and less sloganeering and finger pointing.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who as lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog, Opinionfest.com.

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