Monday, May 3, 2010

The Relationship Between Prosperity And Environmental Stupidity

This is a bit long, but outstanding in establishing the connection between prosperity (via capitalism) and the luxury of environmental stupidity...and vice versa, of course:

Writing on her Facebook page about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Sarah Palin explains why she remains committed to developing domestic oil resources, even though she had a front-row seat to the Exxon Valdez disaster:

Alaskans understand the tragedy of an oil spill, and we’ve taken steps to do all we can to prevent another [Exxon Valdez] tragedy, but we are still pro-development. We still believe in responsible development, which includes drilling to extract energy sources, because we know that there is an inherent link between energy and security, energy and prosperity, and energy and freedom. Production of our own resources means security for America and opportunities for American workers. We need oil, and if we don’t drill for it here, we have to purchase it from countries that not only do not like America and can use energy purchases as a weapon against us, but also do not have the oversight that America has.

There is also an inherent link between energy and environmental conservation. Energy is one of the crucial raw materials for prosperity, and only prosperous societies can minimize their impact on the environment.

Socialist nations have awful environmental records. When the value of property is abolished, land is treated as worthless. The masters of a political economy will bring their boots down on the necks of flora and fauna, as well as people, as they march to the conclusion of their five-year plans. Politicians are extremely skilled at evading accountability. The maximum leaders of a collectivist tyranny don’t worry much about the fate of birds and fish when they’re looking for someplace to bury their industrial failures. Great Leaps Forward leave fields of corpses planted in alkaline soil.

The general poverty of collectivist societies makes their environmental depredations worse. The conservation of nature is a task for high technology, in the hands of people who can afford to preserve vast tracts of unspoiled wilderness. Advanced economies are much less land-intensive than poor nations. Efficient energy production is a big part of the reason why. A college in my home town recently trumpeted the creation of a vast solar farm that would cover a sizable percentage of its energy needs with the angelic purity of harvested sunlight. After the farm was built, the college was horrified to discover it had been necessary to cut down a huge chunk of its wetlands preserve, to make room for all the solar panels.

The lowest income brackets will be hit the hardest by rising fuel prices. The production and distribution of all goods consumes energy. Food is particularly dependent on low shipping costs for large volumes of freight. Adding ten or twenty percent to the cost of food would be devastating to the poor… as would reducing their already dismal employment prospects, by pricing transportation out of reach. Respect for the environment dissipates rapidly in the face of starvation. Look at the desperate poverty in places like India and Africa, and note how little energy those unfortunate souls devote to environmental sensitivity.

Madcap environmentalism is partially to blame for the massive oil spill in the Gulf. As Vladimir at RedState puts it:

We’ve placed promising areas like the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, the East Coast, offshore California, offshore Alaska and ANWR off limits. This current spill will provide ammunition for the anti development folks. But since our collective thirst for petroleum will be unabated, that will mean more oil and refined products will have to be imported in tankers, with their accompanying risk of spill.

BP looked for oil in the deepwater off Louisiana, partly because (paraphrasing Willie Sutton) that’s where the oil is, but also, domestically, it’s one of the few places where they had access.

Maybe it’s too risky for oil companies to drink each others’ milkshakes with 5000-foot straws… but where else are they supposed to go? Reasonable sources of energy that could be exploited safely and with minimal environmental impact, such as ANWR, have been swept off the table by fanatics.

There’s a lot of pressure to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, which also carries the risk of environmental damage, because the oil must be carried on tankers – that’s what the Exxon Valdez was doing when it ran aground. The Great Wazoos of the environmental movement demand fuel to get their private jets and limos to the next global-warming conference. The best way to meet everyone’s needs would be a sane energy policy that doesn’t send oil companies off to root in Davy Jones’ locker, to avoid disturbing the mosquitoes of northern Alaska.

Ace of Spades considers the risk to media-friendly sea otters from the Gulf oil spill, and notes with exasperation that “cute, fuzzy animals will doom America to energy dependence.” Only a wealthy nation can afford that kind of sentimentality. When people become poor and hungry enough, they’ll roast those cute and fuzzy animals on sticks, and barely notice as they wipe out entire species. The environment has no deadlier enemy than the directors of a total state, fighting to control a bitter, impoverished population.

Class dismissed.

There's my two cents.

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