Today is the 70th day since the explosion that ruptured the well pipe of BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico. And there is the usual clamor of the environmentalists using this high-profile catastrophe as a rallying point to shut down all drilling, and to concentrate our efforts on developing renewable sources of energy that don’t come from “fossil fuels.” If they had their way, there would be no more drilling for oil or mining for coal. That leaves us with windmills, solar panels, nuclear power plants and fuel cells, and hydro-electric power plants to provide our electric power.
You can plug your electric car into an outlet all night to charge its battery, and you’ll have power for lights and to run your appliances–as long as the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, and the nuclear power plants don’t overheat and shut down from the demand. But the demand would far exceed our capacity to provide from non-fossil fuel sources all the electric power this country needs. Some of us would have to go back to muscle power, candles, and wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. Some machines would run on ethanol from corn, but the tractor that plows the cornfield needs diesel, and the refinery needs power to make the ethanol. It needs to be transported to the service stations and the pumps that deliver it to your car or truck need power to operate.
Most people think that we need petroleum only to put gasoline into our cars and trucks. But there are airplanes, trains, ships, and many industrial machines that will not run well–or very long– on battery power. We also would not be able to replace our communications satellites when they get old and fail. Think where that would leave us!
The truth is that petroleum products so pervade our lives that it would be extremely difficult to name one thing in the American household that is not made of, treated with, or requires a petroleum product in its manufacture, processing, or growing/transporting/preserving, in the case of food. I challenge you to think of one!!
Without petroleum, we would eventually be back to the time before oil was discovered, wearing homespun cotton, linen, and wool clothing, leather or canvas shoes, heavy glass spectacles, wooden or ceramic dentures, using glass, metal, and pottery containers, walking a lot, bathing with soap made from rendered lard, and too tired to use the free time we had.
I say let them drill for oil and gas in the places where it isn’t so hard to reach, like that small area in ANWAR and the closer offshore sites that are now being exploited by foreign drilling companies because we Americans were not allowed to despoil the pristine view. Do you prefer seeing the Chinese and Russians building their platforms in our waters? Then selling the oil to us?