Dealing with myths

The WaPo editorializes about offshore drilling myths and propagates a few in bashing a few. It appears that some are vehemently opposed to finding new sources of energy – oil based energy, that is. They go so far in rationalizing their view as to create a world that is a bit different from that we actually live in.

The Wapo takes after an ad that asserts that drilling for more oil is pointless because there is so little to get, that the current leases are not being used, and that drilling is dangerous. All three of these arguments are debunked.

Then they assert “The strongest argument against drilling is that it could distract the country from a pursuit of alternative sources of energy.” and bash the current administration. This is perhaps the biggest myth of all. It is a myth that has been tested for decades and yet persists despite a uniform failure of results.

Much of the debate about drilling for oil misses the basic issue of property rights and how government limits them. It then ignores the fact that the purchases of the present are often guided by perceptions of what the future will hold. The third point misses the fact that safety is something purchased and we have spent many fortunes in the pursuit of safety – so much so that there is good reason for concern about the risk versus benefit of such expense.

Finally, on the alternative, anything but oil (or nuclear), fantasy: simple mathematics should be enough to provide pause for thought. These alternative sources are alternative because they have a low power density and are often quite variable in availability. They are power sources rather than an energy supply like oil.

For example, to build a solar power plant equivalent to a modern gigawatt standard plant, you’d need to cover many square miles of country side with fabricated materials and then figure out how to store energy to provide power during night and other times of solar obstruction. That is why the solar plant cost is so high. The fact that the environmental costs of the plant construction and the covering of many square miles is seldom discussed is an indicator that non-rational factors are in play.

The big issue, though, is the balance between freedom and governmental restrictions. If you own land, you still can’t drill or put up a refinery or build a nuclear power plant on it without massive expense and significant risk of bureaucratic walls that limit how you can use your land. Perhaps these restrictions need to be examined.

Comments are closed.