Flowing at 1 million barrels a day -- equal to 20 percent of today's domestic oil production -- ANWR oil would almost equal America's daily imports from Saudi Arabia. And it would equal the supply loss that Hurricane Katrina temporarily caused, and that caused so much histrionic distress among consumers. Lee Raymond, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil, says that if the major oil companies decided that 10 billion barrels were an amount too small to justify exploration and development projects, many current and future projects around the world would be abandoned.Well, now wait a second. Don't you think that's more than a bit reductionistic? And self-serving? I mean, it seems to me one thing that basically favours the environmental argument is that one has nothing to gain, personally, from it. While I can conjure up reasons for which an oil company, for example, just might possibly, arguably, be conceived of as having a mixed agenda on such a question, it's less obvious that an informed party speaking for conservation of a particular environment (say, a male biology professor who is a Republican with short hair who bathes) has anything so immediate to gain by their opposition to such development, other than the maintenance of a more-balanced overall environment.
But for many opponents of drilling in the refuge, the debate is only secondarily about energy and the environment. Rather, it is a disguised debate about elemental political matters.
For some people, environmentalism is collectivism in drag. Such people use environmental causes and rhetoric not to change the political climate for the purpose of environmental improvement. Rather, for them, changing the society's politics is the end, and environmental policies are mere means to that end.
The unending argument in political philosophy concerns constantly adjusting society's balance between freedom and equality. The primary goal of collectivism -- of socialism in Europe and contemporary liberalism in America -- is to enlarge governmental supervision of individuals' lives. This is done in the name of equality.
People are to be conscripted into one large cohort, everyone equal (although not equal in status or power to the governing class) in their status as wards of a self-aggrandizing government. Government says the constant enlargement of its supervising power is necessary for the equitable or efficient allocation of scarce resources.
Therefore, one of the collectivists' tactics is to produce scarcities, particularly of what makes modern society modern -- the energy requisite for social dynamism and individual autonomy. Hence collectivists use environmentalism to advance a collectivizing energy policy. Focusing on one energy source at a time, they stress the environmental hazards of finding, developing, transporting, manufacturing or using oil, natural gas, coal or nuclear power.
A quarter of a century of this tactic applied to ANWR is about 24 years too many. If geologists were to decide that there were only three thimbles of oil beneath area 1002, there would still be something to be said for going down to get them, just to prove that this nation cannot be forever paralyzed by people wielding environmentalism as a cover for collectivism.
For Will to tell me that they are doing this for self-aggrandizing, power thrills, well, that seems a little too pat an answer for us to dismiss the environmental movement. I keep coming back to listening to the fishermen talking about their problems with keeping up the rate of harvesting the oceans that they've gotten used to. The fact that we can so affect our environment that we're actually "straining out the sea," as it were, is staggering. It seems nothing less that short-sightedness and self-interest of the worst kind than to see this as anything but the advent of one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced. Calling it "collectivist" seems like such a scare-word in American discourse that he might have well have gone the whole way and just screamed "Reds!" Why not call it just as easily by positive language for the Right like "management" or "corporate?" Either way, given the increase in human power--and thus responsibility--it seems inevitable that we do have to create a management philosophy regarding a balance between human need and the long-term ability of the environment to provide those needs. The theological buzzword is, of course, "stewardship," and like most buzz-words, tends to convey a greater illusion of content than what it actually possesses. But it seems more than obvious to me that this is the future, and the good goals of seeking to provide immediate needs and to make a legitimate profit must, in any rational society, be balanced by the long-term responsibilities for providing the opportunity to achieve the same goals in the future. I can think of few more dramatic threats to the future of capitalism than what the environmental data is pointing toward, and few topics that benefit less from being so politicized and identified with any particular party-agenda.
This has nothing to do with ANWR, specifically, but I think Will is too smart to not have come up with a far more persuasive and serious an argument than what he offers.