Sarah Palin As Dentist-in-Chief - Drill Baby, Drill

in Oil

Governor Palin has made her energy priority very clear with these words: "Drill, Baby, Drill." She wants to have the lead role on energy policy in a McCain Administration. And apparently, John McCain wants her to have it.

John McCain is ready to make the same mistake that George W. Bush, our current Republican President, made when he asked his Vice President to develop national energy policy. Like Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin knows and cares about only one kind of energy - oil.

Fortunately Ronald Reagan's Vice President, George H. W. Bush had no aspiration to become national dentist. If Reagan and the elder Bush had adopted a "Drill, Baby, Drill" policy during the 1980 energy crisis, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. Our domestic oil reserves would be gone and we would be importing even more foreign oil and our balance of payments deficit would be larger and gas at the pump would cost even more.

The delegates at the Republican National Convention chanted, "Drill, Baby, Drill." In Sarah Palin, they found a national cheerleader and potential Dentist-in-Chief. "Drill, Baby, Drill" is a profoundly shortsighted slogan. The last thing a country should do when it is running out of a non-renewable resource is to use it up as fast as possible. Strength does not come through exhaustion.

Domestic oil production in the United States peaked about 1970. It has been declining ever since and the long term trend can not be reversed no matter how many holes we punch through the ocean floor or the Artic permafrost. Alaska's North Slope reversed that decline for only a few years. (I was in Valdez that summer day in 1977 when the first crude came out of the Alaskan pipeline and headed to Japan.)

The oil companies should be criticized for their price-gauging. American oil companies should be criticized for the obscene salaries of their executive officers. The CEO of Exxon-Mobile made $69.7 million in 2005(and more since) while the heads of European companies British Petroleum (BP) and Royal Dutch Shell were paid less than 10 percent of their American counterpart.

However, American oil companies should not be criticized for not drilling in the numerous domestic leases they already hold--mostly in the Gulf of Mexico. Our country is better off importing oil if foreign oil is cheaper to extract than domestic reserves. Oil companies also prefer using oil from less stable countries first while they sit on their leases in the U.S.

Importing foreign oil, rather than first depleting domestic reserves, in some sense may not be ethical, but it clearly is in our national interest. Of course, we will have to pay for it. We pay the same companies anyway. Of course, it will hurt our trade deficit. Would it be better if our kids have to import more foreign oil later, when it will cost even more?

The real problem with our energy crisis is that we learned nothing from the 1980 oil crisis. We didn't continue to conserve, by far the most effective energy strategy. We started driving big cars and trucks again. Fuel standards were not improved for three decades. We virtually stopped developing alternative energy sources for two decades. It was not only American carmakers who were irresponsible. We all were.

Perhaps future generations, with the better technology they will have, may decide to drill in sensitive areas like the Artic and the coastal shelf. That will be their decision. For us to chant, "Drill, Baby, Drill" and want to suck it all out as quickly as possible now is immoral. Like the national debt, "Drill, Baby, Drill" is another example of intergenerational greed. It would reduce our children's options and make it more difficult for them to prosper.

The legacy of Sarah Palin as national dentist would be an open root canal for our children and grandchildren.

Lowell Klessig is Emeritus Professor of Resource Management, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Lowell Klessig
934 River Road N
Amherst Junction, WI 54407

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Lowell Klessig is Emeritus Professor of Integrated Resource Management at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. In addition to articles in professional journals, he has authored numerous Extrension publications in non-technical terms for adult audiences. He served as Executive Director of the Wisconsin Rural Leadership Program. He has travelled to 47 countries and taught in six foreign countries. He writes a monthly column for a Midwestern weekly newspaper and does occasional magazine features. (A one page bio summary is available electronically upon request.)

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Sarah Palin As Dentist-in-Chief - Drill Baby, Drill

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This article was published on 2010/04/04
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