There’s an interesting article in today’s Washington Post (WP) Business Section entitled Indebted Ever After, authored by Frank Ahrens.  It addresses the new documentary movie I.O.U.S.A., opening in a couple of weeks.  The movie apparently focuses upon David M. Walker, the former head of the Government Accountability Office, who’s been touring the country giving lectures on the coming American debt crisis.  Senator McCain even offered him a job this week should he be elected President.

 

As I’ve not seen the movie, I limit my comments to what I read in the WP article this morning.  Quoting the article, the movie “is an 87-minute alarum on what it calls the tsunami of debt bearing down on the United States’ future, caused by the rising national deficit, the trade imbalance and the pending costs of baby boomers cashing in on entitlements.”

 

I bring this up and highlight the movie because a key contributor to this looming financial crisis is our country’s trade imbalance, which is hugely affected by the dollars leaving the country for the purchase of foreign oil for our transportation sector.  We don’t think of this when all we hear from our favorite environmental groups is that “Big Oil” isn’t satisfied with its record profits and wants to defile our coastlines too in its never-ending search for profit, aided by its Republican friends who depend upon “Big Oil” for their campaign contributions. 

 

I will devote a future column to the distasteful and harmful demagoguery of those who resort to using the term “Big Oil” whenever they want to make a point less on facts than on emotion.  I’ve learned to pretty well give up on learning anything factual from any piece that leads with the words “Big Oil”.  That is not the purpose of any such piece.

 

My point is that environmental groups aren’t thinking about our trade deficit when they oppose offshore drilling or opening ANWR – that’s not their job – but it is the job of the rest of us (our political leaders especially).  We owe it to the country to carefully scrutinize the claims of the environmental community and stack those claims up against other information which may argue in favor of drilling, such as the gigantic trade deficit exacerbated by oil imports.  We must also consider that environmental groups are not entirely financially neutral.  The more sensational the claim, the easier it is for them to rake in checks from well-meaning contributors.  And the fact is that we’ve essentially given environmental groups veto power on our major energy policy decisions (offshore, ANWR) for years, not scrutinizing their claims but virtually accepting them carte blanch.  That veto power is exercised most powerfully in the votes of most Democrats and Northeast Republicans on Capitol Hill who cannot say no to this most vital political constituency and still win elections.  But because there is so much more at stake we must begin to look harder at the environmental claims and stack them up against other information that would suggest we do take the action being contemplated.   We will often find that we have no other choice.

 

There is every reason to believe that high energy prices are beginning to cause Americans to think harder about offshore drilling.  It seems that Americans instinctively know that increasing supply is what you do to lower price.  Sure, the effects won’t be immediate, but we have to start somewhere. If we’d commenced this process at the beginning of the Bush Administration we’d be starting to feel the benefits today. 

 

As I argued in one of my postings yesterday, increased oil and natural gas development need not be antithetical, as most assume, to our objectives in combating climate change.  The key point is that while moving ahead on measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions (Cap and Trade legislation, for instance) and move to alternative fuels, we need to replace the import of foreign oil with domestically produced oil and especially natural gas.   We should also be aware that most of what we’re likely to find offshore will be natural gas, which we need desperately because it is vastly cleaner that coal, or as pointed out in the Pickens Plan could be a wonderful (cleaner) replacement for gasoline in fueling our automobiles.

 

So, let’s all plan on seeing this movie and let it help move into our consciousness that domestic production isn’t about helping “Big Oil”, it is about helping ourselves.