Saturday, September 16, 2006

Black Gold, Colorado Tea

To say that America has an oil problem is to state the blindingly obvious; it would have to be for President Bush and Chuck Schumer to both agree on something. There is an extremely detailed and apparently reliable source here that has statistics that I'll be using as the basis for my positions on oil and energy policy in general.

For now, since I'm swamped with work, I'll keep it simple. Part of America's oil problem is the fact that people fail to recognize that it isn't a unitary problem. There are two interrelated but distinct aspects to America's oil problem.

The first aspect is environmental, or inherent. It has nothing to do with where the oil comes from; the problem is oil itself. The only real solution to the environmental problems posed by oil is finding or developing viable alternative energy sources. To someone primarily concerned with this aspect of America's oil problem, the discovery of a vast new American oil field would be a tragedy, since it would enable the oil economy to continue on its current path for longer.

The second aspect of America's oil problem is geopolitical. It has nothing to do with oil in and of itself and everything to do with where we get it from and the political clout oil resources provide countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, the strategic threat of the "oil weapon" and the problems of relying on possibly hostile countries for a vital natural resource. There are two possible solutions to this problem - a move to alternative energy sources or a significant American source of oil. To someone primarily concerned with this aspect of the problem, the discovery of a vast new American oil field would be a cause for celebration, since it would significantly alter the geopolitical playing field.

Me? Count me in the latter category. That doesn't mean I completely disregard the environmental necessity of moving away from oil. What it does mean is that I would consider the geopolitical implications of a significant American oil find more important than the environmental ones. Even if we found a hidden American oil reserve roughly the size of Saudi Arabia's, I would still be committed to alternative energy sources, because I believe that minimizing the environmental impact of our energy consumption is supremely important. But you'd better believe I'd do everything I could to tap that reserve - or ensure that the reserve got tapped by private enterprise, really - regardless of the environmental impact, because the geopolitical implications would be so important.

Of course, the key is that the oil resource be significant. I'm against opening up ANWR to drilling, because it is a relatively insignificant field, by all estimates, and the geopolitical benefits of the minor increase in worldwide oil production would be far outweighed by the environmental damage to ANWR.

But the Colorado oil shale? That's another story entirely.

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