Thursday, May 01, 2008

Imaginary solutions to complex problems

Mom & Dad save the world

My parents still take President Bush seriously. In the absence of an Alzheimer's diagnosis, I have concluded that their mental processes have been clogged by a steady diet of faux facts from Fox News and talk radio. When Bush used his famous oratorical skills to call on Congress to cooperate with his proposal to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Mom and Dad cheered. The oil underneath ANWR, you see, is the answer to our energy problems:

“We have all the oil we need up in Alaska,” declared my mother. If only ANWR were opened up for use by American oil companies, our national dream of energy independence would be realized overnight.

Interesting. I asked Mom where she got this information. She advised me that it was general knowledge. I asked if she knew how much oil had actually been found in ANWR.


That's quite reassuring, I admit.

Dad was angry at the Senate Democrats for blocking ANWR oil exploitation. I've heard this complaint before, back in December, when a Democratic filibuster defeated an effort by Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska to attach an Arctic Refuge drilling amendment to the defense appropriations bill. Dad pointed out that gas prices would be much lower right now if the Senate has enacted the Stevens amendment last year. For someone who routinely scoffs at government, my father has a powerful selective ability to believe in instant gratification. Even our lameduck president has never been so bold as to predict instantaneous relief from high oil prices: “The Department of Energy estimates that ANWR could allow America to produce about a million additional barrels of oil every day.... It would likely mean lower gas prices.”

That sounds like a lot of oil. How much oil does the U.S. use every day?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the nation uses nearly 21 million barrels every day. The president therefore suggested that ANWR could provide perhaps 5% of our current oil consumption. And that's not taking into account the likelihood of increasing demand.

No, ANWR is not the solution to our problems, even assuming that the estimated million barrels a day is even possible.

Did my parents know ANWR's estimated production capacity? Did they know how much oil the U.S. uses every day? No. And no. But Fox News and the president say the Arctic Refuge can solve our problems. Why won't I accept that?

I could be paying too much attention.


Karen said...

That rosy estimate of oil available from ANWR doesn't mention that it takes a decade or so to bring a major field up to pumping at full capacity: there's an enormous amount of seismologic effort required to locate the best well sites, then the task of drilling each well, establishing the infrastructure to get the oil where it needs to go, and bringing the whole system online.

Oh, and there's also the issue of having enough stateside refinery capacity.

I haven't watched a minute of Fox News since my dad died two years ago. But somehow, I suspect they've ignored these issues.

Perhaps the critters whose ANWR environment would be threatened by oilfield development could be trained to do field geophysics, weld pipes, construct refineries, or something equally useful.

Corbie said...

No, no! Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. I have the same problem with my mother-in-law and her husband--just listen to Fox News 24/7 and you'll never have to think. It's not so much news as it is dogma, I think.

William said...

I think it was on Olbermann that I heard that drilling in ANWR could lower the price of gas... by about a penny a gallon. Of course I haven't done anything to verify that.

But what really bothers me about this story, and many others, is the absurd way Mr. Bush talks about the Congress "obstructing" things, as though it were his job to formulate policies, and theirs only to rubber-stamp. It seems clear this is how he actually thinks, too. But no, damnit -- Constitutionally, it's Congress' job to set policy, and his job to execute it. He has a veto, but that's it. But what he can't accomplish in law, he makes up for in bluster -- he gives new meaning to the phrase "bully pulpit".

The Ridger, FCD said...

Fortunately my father (and my mother before she died) wouldn't have watched Fox on a bet. My older brother though ... I've taken to just ignoring all the political stuff he sends me. He thinks because we both hate Bush we are in agreement on everything else.