Your Lying Eyes

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10 November 2005

NIYBY in the Arctic

Congress appears to be going back and forth right now on whether to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. The interesting thing about this is who opposes it and who favors it. It's probably a safe bet that unlike, say, the gulf coast of Florida, almost nobody is ever going to actually visit ANWR. So what's the problem?

I like to imagine a conversation between an eager young geologist breathlessly informing his wizened superior about the huge oil fields he just discovered in an arctic wilderness in our least populous state:...Read more

Young Geologist: Sir, sir, I've just discovered a huge untapped oil field!
Old Pro: Uh-huh - and where might this be?
Young Geologist: You're gonna love it - in the most desolate, god-forsaken place in the U.S. The northern coast of Alaska!
Old Pro: [furrows brow] oh, that's a problem.
Young Geologist: [frowns] Problem? What, are the Alaskans going to fight it?
Old Pro: No, the Alaskans will be all for it.
Young Geologist: So who's against it?
Old Pro: Oh, people from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey...

I don't want to argue that we shouldn't have protected wilderness, and it's certainly reasonable to oppose drilling in ANWR. But, really, Barney Frank is about as interested in the flora, fauna, and glaciers in ANWR as I'd be in a Judy Garland film festival (and I would't be - I swear!).

So what's the deal here - why do blue-staters, who typically are indifferent to or even repelled by the wild outdoors, oppose any wilderness development, while red-staters, who are more likely to actually commune with nature, tend to support it? It's like there's a reverse NIMBY going on - Bob Menendez (D-NJ) represents Hudson County, surely one of the most urbanized regions in the world, where there couldn't be a shred of undeveloped land remaining, is telling Alaskans regarding ANWR drilling "Not in your back yard!" I can assure you his constituents do not give two craps about ANWR. So what's going on here?

My suspicion is that this reflects more a general anti-business mindset, like the idea that some businessmen are going to be getting away with something here and we're damned if we're going to let them. Rationally, urban voters should be all for ANWR drilling since it will result in lower fuel prices and ANWR might as well be a crater on the far side of the moon for all they know. But they also sense that those bastard oil executives are going to make a helluva lot more money on the drilling than they're going to see in lower prices, so screw 'em - no drilling for you!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The urban Dems are ridiculous, yes. And the oil company execs are men of dubious character who continually take advantage of the situation for personal aggrandizement. I can understand the Dems frustration on this one. Usually their gyrations are puzzling but...

November 10, 2005 10:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


November 10, 2005 10:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will drilling in the arctic really disturb wildlife?

November 10, 2005 10:52 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

I wouldn't even attempt an assessment of the facts in this case (as to whether drilling can be done safely or not) - both sides of the argument are equally untrustworthy. I'm more fascinated about who's taking sides. Alaskans want economic activity, I can understand that. Oil companies want the oil, obviously. But where's the connection with Brooklyn Heights?

November 11, 2005 7:38 AM  
Blogger Dennis Dale said...

I get the feeling that the oil is going to be drilled eventually, one way or another. When oil becomes scarce to the point of being prohibitively expensive, however many years down the line, public opinion will roll right over the oppostion of environmental acivists. They would probably be better off seeking to cut a deal, wringing real concessions out of the government that would apply stringent standards to the drilling and cleanup afterwards and perhaps some real government incentives offered to developing non-petroleum alternatives. I see the issue of oil as a national security concern at this point. Why we haven't developed a plan that includes nuclear energy, domestic drilling, and incentives to cut consumption is beyond me. Looking for a post-petroleum future should be the equivalent of a space race for our time. The enviros need to yield on nuclear straight away, and there has been some promising talk coming from some of their leaders who are waking up to reality. As for the oil companys, we know all they want to do is drill every profitable drop of oil out there. There's nothing wrong with that, they are friggin' oil companies after all. Energy policy is one of the areas where a good plan and a little government incentive can be a good thing. Bush Senior unfairly caught hell for deriding "the vision thing" but it's Jr. who suffers from a lack thereof.

November 11, 2005 12:59 PM  
Anonymous jimbo said...

I imagine that it is easy to sit in New Jersey or wherever and write drill, drill, drill, but the problem is that the location in question is one of the last unmolested areas on the planet and of course it would disrupt the environment there to further feed the greedy, wasteful energy consumption of the western world, lead by the old U S of A. I know I am serving up a big fat grapefruit to you right-handed wankers by I don´t give a flying fuck. (Ziel are you screening that kind of language?). That said, I am willing to yield on nuclear, and would be more than happy to not have every product I buy need to be packaged in petroleum produced plastic... amongst other things. We can discuss alternative energy sources and prudent consumption at another time. Yeeeehaaa!! Now let´s drive over to Rahway and watch the orange-red nighttime glow!!

November 11, 2005 2:47 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

imagine that it is easy to sit in New Jersey or wherever and write drill, drill, drill
Well that's the funny thing - most people in Jersey don't say that - it's the people in Alaska who say drill, drill, drill.
I respect your opinion on this, and know that you do appreciate the diversity throughout the world. But that doesn't explain why Bob Menendez (D-NJ) opposes it.
I think its important to point out what's going on here - the most powerful industry in the nation is being prevented from extracting our most critical resource from land with no other viable economic value owned by the government because people - ordinary people - want to preserve land they'll never experience. Anyone who thinks we don't live in a democracy needs to explain this situation.

November 11, 2005 6:53 PM  
Blogger Dennis Dale said...

Jimbo, I wank with my left hand, thank you.

November 11, 2005 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Harlem said...

A great subject with no clear right or wrong.
I agree with Ziel that much of the Dem outrage appears to be "canned" liberal, tree hugging just because that is part of the persona.
No one, save the greedy oil barons, would suggest drilling in the Grand Canyon, the great Redwood Forest, off the beautiful coast of southern California (oops) or the seafood rich coast of Louisiana (oops, again)because they are natural, national treasures enjoyed by millions of Americans (and others) but we do have to be realistic. This is not a national park that people will ever get to see or enjoy due to its remoteness and harsh conditions so why not use the natural resources that exist there.
I certainly agree with Jimbo about the need to develop alternative energy sources and also address our national obsession with guzzling gas but that is really a different arguement for a different day.
The reality is that the more energy independent we can become, the less dependant we have to be on sources that come with such a high price tag. Realizing that most of our oil comes from Canada, Mexico and Venezuela doesn't negate the fact that a big chunk still comes directly or indirectly from our buds in the Middle East. In addition to helping us get out of that hell hole, energy autonomy (to the degree we can acheive it) also minimizes our competition with China, whose energy consumption is rising at an alarming rate.
It is tough to side with the oil company execs and their record profits but we have to balance what we want with what is real. I love the thought of untouch wilderness being left alone. I also love the thought of our young men leaving Iraq and coming home to gas up their SUVs and take their kids to the park. If the cost of that is industrial development in a remote part of our country, I've got to vote for it.

November 12, 2005 5:36 PM  
Anonymous jimbo said...

Ziel, I was referring to the blogster who wrote "drill, drill, drill." But anyway, of course Alaskans are the ones crying that. In reality they are no more likely than us to actually go there, except if it means to better their profit which we will not share.

November 17, 2005 5:28 PM  
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