Monday, May 26, 2008


It is becoming impossible to drive past any one of those nasty electronic gas station price boards without our attention being arrested and our having to vocalize displeasure at the daily rising cost of driving. With Americans now concentrating on the extraction of up to $4.50 per gallon from their pockets, there is a coming collision of values that may not get much of their consideration in the waning days of the sitting administration.

The value of hard earned cash held by America’s middle class is about to be tested against its own values relating to wildlife and the values of environmentalists. Being environmentally conscious has a price. When America enjoyed the perception of an endless economic boom, protecting forests, oceans, wildlife, lakes and rivers, seemed like the right thing to do. From Alaska to Wyoming, constraints were established and enforced on oil and gas leases operating on Federal land, whether guided by environmental, social or other concerns.

There are tens of billions of barrels of oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of gas in undeveloped proven reserves on Federal lands, plus untold amounts of undiscovered but recoverable oil and gas on the almost 99 million acres under Federal management, whether the land is owned privately, or by the Federal government. There will be an acceleration of drilling permits, and government agencies will be directed to be compliant and expedient. The prime resource real estate will soon become a radically different landscape. Oil rigs, tractors and hauling trucks will stamp large footprints over deserts and forests, covering the mountain bike tracks and hiker trails.

The coming months will bring a discernable and new intrusion on vast tracts of protected land considered pristine wilderness and wildlife habitat, as the race to extract energy resources heats up. Coastal areas such as the Grand Banks, the Alaskan coast, or the Florida Everglades will come under increasing pressure from oil companies to become stages for oil platforms. Environmentalist will be hard pressed to defend values of wilderness against values of a middle class whose dollar is under attack. Derricks in the wilderness will seem an expedient and necessary price to pay, with ample rationalizations.

Meanwhile, there is little serious energy sweeping into the revival of a nuclear energy program, which currently presents the only serious alternative to the cumbrous, expensive and noxious dependence on oil.


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