Let’s drill the tundra

How much more pain must Americans endure before our masters in Washington let oil companies punch a few holes in the Alaskan tundra? Must we shiver pennilessly in the dark before we may extract new domestic petroleum deposits? Or shall we simply keep buying $111 barrels of oil from people who want us dead?

In case Congress missed the news, three U.S. airlines went broke last week. Aloha, ATA, and Skybus blamed in part unaffordable fuel as they grounded their jets. Aloha said sayonara to 1,900 employees, NBC News reports. ATA’s demise destroyed 2,200 jobs, while Skybus sacked 450 workers, atop the 80,000 positions lost across the economy as unemployment spiked from 4.8 percent in February to 5.1 in March.

Losing these airlines likely will boost plane-ticket prices, which already have climbed alongside fuel bills. Since April 4, 2007, a gallon of jet fuel has risen 62 percent to $3.22. The International Air Transport Association calculates that jet fuel will cost airlines worldwide an extra $56 billion in 2008 versus 2007. Having ditched complimentary meals, movies, and even pillows on many flights, there is little left for embattled carriers to curtail, as their chief expense goes sky high.

What’s next? Bring your own seat belt?

The situation on land is equally grim.

Independent truckers have staged work stoppages to showcase their plight. Typical big-rig drivers who spent $837 to fill 250-gallon fuel tanks a year ago pay $1,189 today — up 42 percent.

As of Monday, automobile drivers paid a record average of $3.33 per gallon for self-serve gasoline, up 53 cents in 12 months, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.

Faced with this real, human suffering, the Democratic Congress manages merely to whine about oil companies’ “obscene” profits.

“This whole situation has been nothing more than manipulation around greed,” Rep. John Larson (D – Connecticut) bellowed at a March 31 House hearing.

Politicians and journalists who obsess over “X-rated” oil profits leer at numerators, not denominators. Take industry giant Exxon/Mobil. Its profits are like a pair of size-22 shoes: Massive in isolation, but much more modest when parked beneath Shaquille O’Neal’s 7′-1″ frame.

Exxon’s $40.6 billion profit for 2007 is dwarfed by its $404.5 billion revenue and $199.5 billion crude-oil expense. Of course Exxon’s sales have swelled: Americans pay more for gasoline as OPEC charges record cartel prices for crude, and rising global demand exceeds stagnant supplies. While Exxon’s 10 percent profit outpaces the oil industry’s 8.3 percent average gain, Coca-Cola’s 20.7 percent profit margin and Microsoft’s 27.5 percent turnover should make Exxon’s executives jealous. When will Congress denounce Coke and Microsoft’s “corporate pillage?”

For once, Congress should behave constructively:

— Approve new Alaskan oil drilling already. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s pertinent parcel covers just 2,000 acres — a veritable raindrop in the Olympic swimming pool that is Alaska’s 365-million-acre territory. ANWR’s estimated 10.4 billion barrels could match or replace for 19 years the 1.5 million barrels of Saudi oil that America imports daily.

No one wants to rape Alaska’s wilderness. Environmentally friendly techniques direct numerous drill bits sideways, like covert tentacles, from a handful of surface holes. Allegedly fragile caribou seem quite aroused by all this. Their Central Arctic Herd has quintupled from 6,000 in 1978 to 32,000 today. Meanwhile, petroleum development hums at Alaska’s nearby Prudhoe Bay.

— Deregulate the construction of new oil refineries, something unseen since 1976.

— To encourage new atomic-power plants, stop debating and start storing radioactive waste at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain facility. In return, give Silver State residents free electricity.

— If it’s too much to drill more offshore oil, at least withdraw more natural gas. At worst, gas leaks neither blanket beaches nor smother seagulls.

Planes, trains, and automobiles someday may operate on fuel squeezed from shredded junk mail and pulverized rap CDs. Until then, refined petroleum propels vehicles today. And yet oil languishes beneath our sovereign soil, even as Americans go jobless and our republic meanders into recession.

Will we finally grow up and harness our resources, or will we childishly weep over imaginary threats to wildlife, dispatch supertankers of cash to the Middle East, and watch our petrodollars sponsor bomb belts and exploding aircraft?

Merely asking this question illustrates how desperately this nation needs adult supervision.

(Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. E-mail him at deroy.Murdock(at)gmail.com)


  1. lindaj

    Utterly misguided nonsense. Scientists agree that one way or another less carbon has to go into the atmosphere by 2030 or massive extinctions of living species will occur with unknown results. It doesn’t matter if you “believe in” global warming or not, it is happening and though we may not be the entire cause, industrial emmission of carbon and nitrogen gases is increasing it. It doesn’t matter if we use up the last drops of carbon based fuels or not. What’s important is to develop alternative sources of energy, as much and as fast as possible. If the oil we have available remains underground till it’s the last possible source, it will enrich us even as it kills us. Using up theirs first and ours last is a GOOD idea. And get used to the cost, it isn’t going down except artificially. We are one of the last cultures on earth to be dependent on cheap energy, and we might as well get used to reality and deal with it better than the rest of them so as to stay rich. If we have the guts to, that is.

  2. geb353

    The price of oil is determined by futures speculation.
    A good deal of our imported oil does not come from the Mideast.

    Country Jan-08

    CANADA 1,944 1,784
    SAUDI ARABIA 1,479
    MEXICO 1,198 1,234
    NIGERIA 1,163
    VENEZUELA 1,135
    ANGOLA 566 439

    We have no refinery capacity in this country.
    Drilling in the tundra will not change these factors and oil prices will not come down.
    Oil companies aren’t going to go cheap; forget it.

  3. storky

    Alaskan Nation Wildlife Refuge

    Refuge: a place of shelter, protection, or safety – from human encroachment, pollution and destruction.

    Nobody wants to destroy wildlife refuges, but destruction of ecologically sensitive areas has been the rule and not the exception.

    Deregulating refiners, as you propose, will again result in lowered standards of living as the health and safety of workers and nearby residents are put at greater risk. Why don’t you volunteer your backyard?

    Don’t blame the business failures you cite exclusively on the increasing scarcity of oil. Apply a greater portion of blame on the antiquated and wrong-headed foreign policies that drive up tensions throughout the world, energy policies that reward fossil fuel producers with grotesque profit while discouraging alternative fuel development and crony capitalism that rewards those loyal to the current political administration and punishes those who are not.

  4. Barmy

    This is exactly the same bull that has been coming out of Right-wingnut ideology centers for the last 20 years. Your “little footprint” argument is bullshit! Disruption of the eco-system extends well beyond the the limits of a “couple thousand acres”.

    Oh and 10 years, 10 years, is the best estimate of availability of that oil. Don’t you think we should consider something a little sooner? And why is it that most of the North slope oil is exported and NOT sold in the US now?. Your veiled argument that it’s to “help the people of the United States live a more secure and meaningful life” is the same garbage that got us into the mess we’re dealing with now. That oil will be sold to the highest bidder. You don’t give a damn about America. You morons had your chance and you screwed it up righteously. So sit down and STFU!

    And little note about your Hoover Institute: Rumsfeld is probably the most corrupt, or ignorant politician to serve on the cabinet in the last 50 years, and the good Ole Hoover boys see fit, “On September 8, 2007 the Hoover Institution announced that former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld had accepted an invitation to join the institution as a one-year visiting fellow. You people have one agenda, line your stinking greedy pockets, even at the expense of the entire planet. Screw you!

  5. tiovince

    I agree that we should grow up. I think we should stop funding the war, bring the troops home and start spending the money on Solar Power, Wind Power, Desalinization and other 21st Century methods of fulfilling our energy needs. I bought a new, more fuel effecient automobile last month, but would turn around and buy an alternative energy vechile if the infrastructure supported them. We DO need to quit whining about the obscene oil profits. We should take ACTION and make a sincere effort toward energy independence. If we’d focus our efforts on building alternative energy production facilities, this just MIGHT create some jobs that can’t be exported!

  6. Pablo

    Holy lack of credibility Batman!
    This Deroy guy is the same one spreading pro-Iraq-war propaganda and even has a website trying to convince the public that Saddam was connected with Al Qaeda. He even thinks waterboarding is a good thing! So this is one of the last people I think any upstanding American should pay attention to!
    So we are immature because we have, as a nation kept the salivating petro-wolves at bay; now that is a new perspective! I think we are immature to even consider damaging the most pristine wilderness left in this country while there has been NO attempt at conservation, AND little research into alternative energy solutions. Ten dollars says deroy drives one of those gas-guzzling egomobiles so coveted by a large percentage of Americans who couldn’t give a damn about the effect of their lifestyles on future generations. Drilling in ANWR WILL threaten the caribou and polar bear populations, and all the other creatures that depend on that ecosystem. The petro corporations and their hacks lie and deceive for their bottom dollar, screw them!
    I’d suggest going to http://www.savearcticrefuge.org/ for some facts. Also, look for the wonderful video documentary called “Being Caribou”; it is totally awesome! ANWR is an incredible place we should preserve. It is the ethical thing to do.
    The facts are contrary to everything I read in the above article. The amount of petro up there is negligible compared to the demand, and they can’t and won’t leave such a light footprint. We could easily decrease our consumption 30% if we just started, as a society, getting concerned and giving a damn. People who suggest we need to drill in ANWR, fully knowing that on average, Americans get shamefully poor gas mileage are lame!
    We need to draw some lines that we don’t cross one of them is the violation of ANWR. It’s time to get the hell out of Iraq (which is also consuming massive amounts of petroleum) and spend our $ on seriously researching alternative energy solutions.