Charles Krauthammer has a genuine conceptual breakthrough. The BP oil spill is the fault, at least in part, of… environmentalists!
Environmental chic has driven us out there. As production from the shallower Gulf of Mexico wells declines, we go deep (1,000 feet and more) and ultra deep (5,000 feet and more), in part because environmentalists have succeeded in rendering the Pacific and nearly all the Atlantic coast off-limits to oil production. (President Obama’s tentative, selective opening of some Atlantic and offshore Alaska sites is now dead.) And of course, in the safest of all places, on land, we’ve had a 30-year ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.As a description of reality, this is pure idiocy. But as a form of right-wing rationalization, it’s genius, to the point where I nearly have to admire it. Let’s tally up the fallacious assumptions here. First, the large fallacy is that environmentalists are the ones controlling American oil drilling policy. They support deep offshore drilling? Really?
Then there are smaller, associated fallacies. Krauthammer implies that drilling closer to shore on the East or West coasts would foreclose the possibility of accidents, even though close offshore drilling has also resulted in accidents, and the proximity to shore would make such accidents even more disastrous.
Next, there’s the assumption that world demand for oil is completely static — drill a little more here and we’d necessarily be drilling less there. If we had opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, that would sate the oil companies, and they’d have no longer had any need to drill in the gulf. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work that way.
All in all, a memorable effort from Krauthammer.
I actually find Chait’s argument unpersuasive, except for suggesting its absurd to suggestion environmentalists support deep water drilling. The effect of their policy preferences may well have that effect though.