Alan Braunholtz: Change doesn’t mean drill, baby, drill |

Alan Braunholtz: Change doesn’t mean drill, baby, drill

Expressing at least a little guilt when caught telling lies says something about one’ morals. Sadly John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” has no such scruples when its campaign ads lies are exposed by the fact checkers.

Sad because I respect the guy. Or I used to. It’s hard to keep respect for anyone who allows, let alone instigates a mob sneering at people who give time energy and money to try and make the world a better place. “Think globally, act locally” applies to community organizers more than anyone else.

Before these privileged denigrators get too carried away, maybe they should think about a few community organizers who’ve made a difference. Gandhi, perhaps the most impressive man I’ve ever read about, comes to mind. Then there was that guy in the Middle East 2,000 years ago. Always worth judging people by what they’ve done rather than what they say and the positions they’ve held.

With that in mind, it’s also worth considering what’s behind the orchestrated baying to drill everywhere right now. The rhetoric implies that if we drill, we’ll be energy independent and gas prices will fall. Both are lies.

Strange that those who preach free market economics can’t do the math on the simple fact that we consume 25 percent of the world’s oil and only have 2 percent of the reserves. We can’t drill ourselves out of this, though we can dig a deeper hole by ignoring the real solutions.

McCain knows this, too. As recently as June 13, he vented at oil companies for their profits and inaction on alternative energy. Since then, the need for campaign contributions from oil companies and a simple if deceptive election bumper sticker has flipped his words around.

If you expect drilling to lower oil prices, then you don’t know our oil companies. They’re not going to sell it to us at a discount because we’re all Americans and global demand will keep prices high. Also foreign companies, which would sell the oil wherever they wanted, could buy any new leases. McCain opposes any attempts to reserve U.S. oil for the U.S. market as too much regulation.

If increased domestic supply is key, then why did House Republicans block a July bill that sought to get oil companies to start developing the oil leases they already have? Two-thirds of our federal lands thought to have oil and 80 percent of our offshore fields are already leased. The oil companies prefer to hoard the leases for present and future profits at the expense of our heritage.

A real energy policy is too complex to fit on a bumper sticker. More and responsible drilling will have its place, but you don’t cure an addiction by indulging. Energy independence is a myth for at least a generation. There is no alternative to the huge amounts of oil we import at the moment.

Conservation is the quickest, easiest and biggest first step for the U.S. ” and the world ” to reach energy security, if not independence. This is never a big hit with those who make a living from the amount of energy they sell. It should be a no-brainer for the rest of us, though ” spend less, reduce pollution, make what oil we have left go further etc.

Transportation consumes the most oil, so changes in how we move around have disproportionately large effects. We can “find” more oil in Detroit’s auto plants than in any of our wild lands. Just like money, the easiest way to have more is to waste less.

Energy is a market that needs regulation and intervention (Enron?). Shortsighted market economics will choose the lowest investment and discount long-term costs. Wind farms are expensive to build, but then the wind is free. Coal plants are cheaper to build, but cost literally the earth to run. Why not tax coal to subsidize wind farms, public transport, etc.?

A visionary energy policy requires a broad swathe of changes that not only work here, but also in developing countries as energy demand is a global issue. Personal sacrifice from tolerating nuclear power stations to lifestyle changes and also leaders willing to lead and ask us for them are in short supply.

Given the time and energy needed to transition the world’s economies we may only have the oil left for one try. Falsely reassuring “business as usual” platitudes aren’t going to get us there as we waste the 40 years or so of oil we do have.

Historically, the U.S.’s main asset is our ability to pull together. Hopefully we still have that sense of community. Knowing and helping your community is a traditional value for humankind and not something to be sneered at. Historically it’s one of our best hopes for meaningful change. Grassroots activism often pushes our leaders where they should have the courage to go.

Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a regular column for the Vail Daily. E-mail comments to E-mail comments to

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