Apr 042010
Authors: Ian Bezek

When I saw President Barack Obama’s announcement that he was allowing a broad expansion of offshore drilling along our coastlines, I immediately felt the urge to call out his hypocrisy. During the Presidential campaign, Obama ripped into Sen. John McCain’s similar policy.

Then-candidate Obama said, “Now believe me, if I thought there was any evidence at all that drilling could save people money to fill up their gas tanks by this summer or next year or even the next few years, I would consider it. But it won’t.” Clearly, Obama has again changed his position and enacted policy different than what he campaigned for.

But on this topic, I can’t bring myself to harshly judge his flip-flop because he is in fact right. Perhaps he examined the evidence and realized that drilling for oil here in America will save Americans money. Maybe this reversal of policy was caused only by mere shifting political winds.

Whatever the cause, Obama has found a balanced and moderate position that still considers the concerns of environmentalists and nature lovers without saying “No, no, no” to any attempts to develop any of our own energy resources.

CNN reports that Obama’s new plan would, “Include lifting a 20-year ban on drilling off the Virginia coastline, while putting the clamps on sites such as southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Parts of the Arctic Ocean off Alaska’s North Slope, however, could be accessed.” It would also include drilling in parts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida coast.

Obama defended his new-found support for drilling by saying, “The bottom line is this: Given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth and produce jobs and keep our businesses competitive, we’re going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy.”

On this, he is absolutely correct. It would be virtually impossible, and economically suicidal to try to transition straight from our current energy system to a renewable energy grid.

I’ve discussed this at length in other columns; the fact remains that we simply don’t have the battery technology to store solar and wind power for use when they are needed, nor does our outdated power distribution system have the ability to move power from where it is most windy such as North Dakota to big cities where electricity is most needed. We also don’t have the types of batteries that are necessary to create purely-electric, no-gasoline cars that can drive you more than a few dozen miles without stopping for a recharge.

With these facts in mind, it is impossible to create a purely alternative energy American power grid in the next decade or two. Obama apparently realizes this, as shown by his outspoken support of clean, cheap and safe nuclear power and offshore oil drilling.

This buys him a lot of political ground with the Republicans who, in return, will probably allow him to continue ramping up funding for alternative energy research and perhaps even reconsider some sort of cap-and-trade policy.

The New York Times quoted a Capitol Hill staffer who suggested that Obama is taking the best of Republican ideas and co-opting them. To differentiate themselves, Republicans then have to suggest more radical policies, as their two best ideas for lowering the cost of energy, building more nuclear power plants and drilling offshore, have turned into policies under Obama.

For those of you who still doubt the wisdom of this policy and think it is a radical blow to the environment, let me talk to you for a moment. America imports roughly 60 percent of its oil from abroad. Excluding Canada, the majority of our oil comes from countries with, uh, pathetic human rights records.

The country that gets everyone all worked up, Venezuela, is hardly the worst: Saudi Arabia abuses its women and treats them as little more than slaves; Iran and Iraq are not a whole lot better. And Russia, still a major source of oil, does things to the environment that would be unthinkable here in America. Remember an accident named Chernobyl?

When you say no to oil drilling in America, you ensure that the money you use will create human rights abuses and far worse environmental degradation than if the oil was purchased from an American oil well.

If you want to truly save the environment, join me by hopping on a bike instead of commuting by car; stopping offshore drilling won’t save the environment or improve human lives.

Editorials Editor Ian Bezek is a senior economics major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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