I began writing this thinking that I was going to accuse Krauthammer of suppressing evidence when he argues for drilling in ANWR and lifting the moratorium on outer continental shelf drilling since at first glance he seems to completely ignore the environmental argument based on global warming.
His argument runs like this:
- Reducing dependence on foreign oil is in the national interest.
- Opening up domestic energy resources for development will reduce dependence on foreign oil.
- Therefore we should open up ANWR and the outer continental shelf for development.
Notice that this isn't McCain's silly and discredited argument that opening up these resources will address pump prices. Instead it looks like perfectly nice argument: A practical syllogism arguing for a means to an end. Presumably he is arguing that 2 is the best means to achieve 1. If that's so, then he should consider alternatives such as reducing our consumption of oil.
Consider: 25 years ago, nearly 60 percent of U.S. petroleum was produced domestically. Today it's 25 percent. From its peak in 1970, U.S. production has declined a staggering 47 percent. The world consumes 86 million barrels a day, the United States, roughly 20 million. We need the stuff to run our cars and planes and economy. Where does it come from?
Skipping the results of several hours of reading DOE reports on the oil resources (see comments) it looks like the best case from opening up both of ANWR and OCS is around 1 million barrels of oil per day in the late 2020's. That's pretty significant given our current imports of 15 million barrels a day (7%)–roughly equivalent to the imports from Nigeria this year). So, it seems that we must grant as plausible that these measures would reduce dependence on foreign oil.
But the interesting part of the argument is this
The net environmental effect of Pelosi's no-drilling willfulness is negative. Outsourcing U.S. oil production does nothing to lessen worldwide environmental despoliation. It simply exports it to more corrupt, less efficient, more unstable parts of the world — thereby increasing net planetary damage.
I had thought that he was just ignoring Pelosi's real concern with opening up these resources, that is, I believe, their contribution to anthropogenic global warming. He only focuses on "environmental despoiliation" which looks at first like the effects local to the extraction and transportation of oil, and not its consumption.
The assumption he makes is that the rate of consumption of oil will be unaffected whether we open up these resources or not. The question then is merely one of where the oil is extracted. And, if opening up these resources has as little effect on price as opponents of drilling say, then it can't be argued that not exploiting these resources will contribute to a reduction in consumption.
The argument opposed to drilling has three options it seems to me:
1. NIMBY (we just don't want to mess up our environment–we're happy to let others do it).
2. Detailed argumentation that opening up ANWR and OCS have a likelihood of greater local environmental damage than drilling in Nigeria etc.
3. The total carbon consumption argument. Any increase in access to carbon based fuels is undesirable because of the the dangers of climate change.
I probably believe that 3 is a good argument (1 is probably a good argument though it might have moral difficulties, and I don't know enough to judge 2). But, if we really believed it (generally) we would probably have to support capping of imports or bans on importing oil from new developments. We would have to either accept that oil prices should continue to increase or that the rest of the world should stop developing.
Krugman attacks McCain's ridiculous claims linking the moratoria on OCS development and gas prices. But he draws a more significant lesson from this.
Hence my concern: if a completely bogus claim that environmental protection is raising energy prices can get this much political traction, what are the chances of getting serious action against global warming? After all, a cap-and-trade system would in effect be a tax on carbon (though Mr. McCain apparently doesn’t know that), and really would raise energy prices.
The only way we’re going to get action, I’d suggest, is if those who stand in the way of action come to be perceived as not just wrong but immoral. Incidentally, that’s why I was disappointed with Barack Obama’s response to Mr. McCain’s energy posturing — that it was “the same old politics.” Mr. Obama was dismissive when he should have been outraged.
This doesn't address Krauthammer's security based argument, but it does point out that we are still far from ready to defend never mind implement the consequences of the total carbon consumption argument. To oppose ANWR and OCS exploitation on these grounds commits us to an argument that no new carbon fuel resources should be developed and that the only way to address rising fuel costs is to reduce demand worldwide.
If there is a flaw in the argument it is this: The argument that Krauthammer needs to address, however, is whether it would be a better means to energy independence to reduce consumption by those same 1 million barrels a day in 2030 than to open ANWR and OCS to drilling.