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Jewish World Review
Sept. 2, 2005
/ 28 Av, 5765
Stop Your Whining and Start Pumping
Oh, stop complaining about high gasoline prices. Adjusted for inflation, gas is still not as costly as it would have been in the year 27, when the cost of pumping by hand and straining light sweet crude through slave livers would have been ruinous. And it's still cheaper than it was in 1981, before Ronald Reagan brought the price down by firing the air traffic controllers, who stopped driving to work and thus reduced demand. Or something like that. In any case, it could be worse.
What's that, you say? You live in the present, and hence are disinclined to accept windy bromides about historical trends? Well, you have a point.
So what to do about our gas crisis? The options are few, but clear. Start with this: The government cuts taxes on gas to put money back in people's pockets, and reduces the regulatory obstacles to new refinery construction.
(Gales of laughter; wiping tears from eyes)
Oh, that's a good one, isn't it. OK, let's consider some serious ideas:
To sum up: We could drill more, build more domestic refineries, build new nuke plants and slash government taxes on gas. Or we could have federal mandates on fuel economy and carpooling, so you're forced to sit in a tiny box arguing about the radio with a stranger who applies Brut with a hose. Sure, you lose some freedom, but ANWR remains pristine, and Malibu beach houses don't have their sunsets spoiled.
- Drive less. Especially you people in North Dakota who insist on getting in the car to go five miles in sleet just to pick up some medicine. Buy your pills online, and let UPS deliver it. Their trucks run on pixie dust.
- Alternative fuels. Go ahead, come up with a substitute; no one's stopping you. Except of course the oil company Black Ops teams. Last week they took out a dude who invented an engine that ran on hemp and turkey guts. True, man. Read it on the Internet. That's why there's no substitute for gas right now; it has nothing to do with technological and distribution barriers. It's all those Texaco assassins.
- Confiscate Iraq's oilfields. As long as we're going to be accused of fighting a war for oil, might as well get some gas out of it. The Iraqi government is subsidizing gas for its own people; odd we don't get some benefit. It's as if we think forging a constitution and birthing a civil society are more important than diverting Iraqi crude to American cars. As "The Simpsons"' Comic Book Guy would say: Worst. Imperialists. Ever.
- Drill! Drill everywhere! Not just Alaska, but California. Florida, too. To heck with what Jeb Bush wants; put those platforms so close to the coast you could incorporate them into golf courses. Drill in Central Park if you have to. Would the aesthetic damage be more important than the economic damage caused by high oil costs?
Depends on whom you ask. New Yorkers, who think Manhattan runs on ego juice distilled from brokers and real-estate moguls, say YES. Because oil is bad and ugly and gives the Arctic Ice Shelf cancer. But drilling no longer requires big, gushing structures that look like an Eiffel Tower for hillbillies. You could probably hide a drill in a nice office building. It would look peculiar in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, granted; the caribou would have trouble breeding because they'd never get past lobby security. But in New York, who'd know?
Doesn't matter: For some, it's not just the sight of a drilling rig that offends. It's the moral stain inherent in oil production, an ethical taint that touches everything. OK, then: Give the nation's artists free hand to decorate the derricks as they please. Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. It would cause some people to seize up and fall over. Must ... hate ... derrick ... yet ... derrick ... is ... culturally ... transgressive. Does ... not ... compute.
- Nuclear power. You know, like the French. Heck, it's so great even the Iranians want it, and surely anyone who's got the international trademark on "Death to America" must be on to something.
The owners will wave thanks as they pass overhead in their private jets.
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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.
© 2005, James Lileks
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