Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why should we be in a rush to use up all our oil?

According to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, back in the 1970s Malcolm Forbes--publisher of Forbes magazine and father of the economic flat-earther and two-time Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes--made a very sensible point about this matter which is still worth paying attention to:
LOOKING FOR more oil.

Complaints about the drilling bans in ANWR and offshore are a staple of right-wing talk radio. But I remember Malcolm S. Forbes, back in the 1970s, saying that we should drill as little domestic oil as possible. Pump the Arabs' oil as long as it lasts, then -- when oil has become really scarce and valuable -- we'll be the only ones with any left!
OK, "as little domestic oil as possible" is a bit exaggerated (and I gather that some expansion of refining capacity might be useful, which is a different but related point). But the basic idea, however chauvinistically expressed, makes good sense.

A more sensible immediate priority would be to focus on dramatically improving the efficiency with which we use oil. Just for a start, this would include raising fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, investing in better and more extensive mass-transit systems, and the like. Unlike drilling in ANWR, steps like these could begin to yield significant results in the fairly short term, as well as being valuable both economically and environmentally in the long term. (We should also be working on the development of viable alternative sources of energy, but my guess is that this solution will take a while before it begins to pay off significantly, so that's a more medium- to long-term solution.)

Just a passing thought ...

--Jeff Weintraub