The New York Times’ May 2 Week in Review section leads with a piece from Jad Mouawad headlined “The Spill vs. a Need to Drill.” You get a sense of the tone of the piece early on: Readers learn that “emotions are running high” as the disaster gets worse. And this has led to predictable consequences:
Beyond railing at BP, the company that owns the well now spewing oil, some environmental groups have demanded an end to offshore exploration.
If someone’s “emotion”-based argument is reduced to “railing,” it’s obviously not to be taken seriously. The Times states its position pretty succinctly: Nothing is going to stop offshore drilling, for simple reasons:
The country needs the oil–and the jobs.
Much has changed since 1969. The nation’s demand for oil has surged, rising more than 35 percent over the past four decades, while domestic production has declined by a third. Oil imports have doubled, and the United States now buys more than 12 million barrels of oil a day from other countries, about two-thirds of its needs.
While it’s certainly true that the country consumes more oil now than it did in 1969 (it would be surprising if that weren’t the case, since the U.S. population was two-thirds as big as it is today), new drilling would provide a relatively small amount of oil, and would have little impact on the much-discussed need to break the grip of “foreign oil.”
The article also offers concern about global warming as a rationale for continued offshore drilling–because allowing such drilling might help win Republican support for a climate bill.
The Times goes on to note that, “Some in the environmental movement believe that public outrage will also push the government to aggressively develop alternatives to oil.” This sets up a quote from an environmentalist–which is then challenged by the reporter:
But developing credible, cheap and abundant alternatives to oil will take many decades, and in the meantime, cars need gasoline and planes need kerosene. The United States is still the world’s top oil consumer by far. Even as China grows, the United States consumes twice as much oil.
Is there any alternative, asks Mouawad? Not for decades, says the American Enterprise Institute’s Samuel Thernstrom, and in the meanwhile we’ve got to drill–leaving the last word to the ExxonMobil-backed think tank.