One of the favorite targets of Republicans is the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s not just the Agency; it’s the concept of protecting the environment. Their mantra has become “drill, baby, drill,” as they want to extract every possible drop of petroleum out of the ground and use it as America’s and the world’s primary energy source.
But as Time Magazine of April 16, 2012 reports, what conservatives want to drill is not “your father’s oil.” No longer is it the relatively easy to reach oil from Pennsylvania in the U.S. or Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. It’s a conglomerate of “sandy, goopy oil” in Alberta, Canada, to oil located 7,000 feet below the ocean floor in Brazil to deep water oil in the Gulf of Mexico similar to what British Petroleum’s “Deepwater Horizon” was pumping when it had a disastrous explosion in April, 2010, to petroleum deep below the Arctic Ocean.
Despite efforts to conserve on petroleum, demand is still rising — set to grow 800,000 barrels a day this year despite a still sluggish global economy. Much of this has to do with emerging economies that are primarily concerned about production and transportation rather than global warming or a clean environment. The two largest consumers of increasing amounts of petroleum are China and India. The two countries are battling one another to become the world’s largest economy, including being the largest producers of manufactured goods in the world. Rickshaws and bicycles, which congested the streets not too long ago, were first replaced by relatively small automobiles and now by 18-wheel trucks as large as any in the United States or Europe.
The theories of conservation and protecting the world’s environment sometimes make sense in economies that are already well-developed. However, even in the United States there are millions of people, particularly Republicans, who either don’t believe in global warming or who have political and financial reasons to deny its existence. If the United States cannot fashion an energy policy based on reducing demand and moving toward cleaner sources of energy, then it is nearly an impossible task to convince other countries to do so.
The Deepwater Horizon was a disaster that primarily impacted the United States. For many or most nations to come to recognize the possible devastation that is happening to the world, we may have to have a much larger occurrence. The most likely is an increase in the melting of the glaciers in both the Arctic and Antarctica, with a consequent significant rise in ocean levels. The consequences of this phenomenon is already being felt in islands scattered around the world. Scientists predict that it won’t be long until before water levels along the coasts of industrialized nations rise to a level where certain areas become uninhabitable and others simply need to be abandoned and relocated.
So kudos to Time for presenting a cover story that does not simply state that the world has the means of producing considerably more oil for burgeoning economies. We’re a long way from when John Rockefeller started the mass extraction of oil from Pennsylvania in 1870. In the 21st Century, when it comes to increasing the world’s supply of useable oil, it’s important that we remember the old adage from TV’s Hill Street Blues: Be careful out there.”
Since 1969, Arthur Lieber has been teaching and working in non-profit educational organizations. His focus has been on promoting critical, creative, and enjoyable learning for students in informal settings. In the 2010 mid-term elections, he was the Democratic nominee for US Congress from Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District.