Saturday, April 16, 2005

Start the drilling

President Bush this morning, in his weekly radio address, said we need to get going on our "national energy strategy." Why should we need an energy strategy, let alone a national one? How about ending these insane government regulations and letting the free market work?

I think it's long been time to set up the wells and pump ANWR dry. A month ago, Jonah Goldberg made a strong case, including refuting the claim that drilling would disrupt the caribou herds. Ironically, he notes, the 2000 acres for drilling are fifty times smaller than Ted Turner's Montana ranch. Actually, Ted Turner's website lists his ranches and their sizes: his Flying D ranch alone is 113,600 acres, and his other three Montana ranches total over 38,000 acres.

I disagree with Goldberg's assessment that Turner and other rich environmentalists are "daft" about ANWR or other developments. I think these ultra-rich liberals are crazy like a fox: they're using their fortunes to deprive other people of land. Now, I am the first person to argue that it's their right to purchase huge tracts of private land in Montana, Argentina or wherever. It's Ted Turner's right to "protect" wetlands by purchasing them with his own money, if he outbid others who also offered to buy the land (for whatever reason, including development). However, rich environmentalists go far beyond that.

Ted Turner likes to use his fortune to influence public policy, because he can get the same result for pennies on the dollar. In a bidding war with oil companies, even Turner couldn't afford to buy those 2000 acres of ANWR. Even if he could, what would he do with it? Pet the caribou? So it's too great an opportunity cost for Turner to buy that part of ANWR. However, for a fraction of the purchase price, he and other rich environmentalists can and do donate to environmentalist groups. Those groups lobby against ANWR drilling, that lobby zoning commissions to enact absurd restrictions because of allegedly endangered frogs and garter snakes, that lobby to "protect" wetlands and "endangered species."

Those last two are grievous examples of how the federal government sidesteps the "eminent domain" clause of the Fifth Amendment. Your land may have been private property for years, long before any "wetlands" or "endangered species" were identified. And once the federal government declares "wetlands" on your property or finds some endangered insect, that it: you can't use that part of your property anymore. Government doesn't have to compensate you at all.

Actually, Ted Turner wasn't satisfied with donating to environmentalist groups. He started his own, the Turner Endangered Species Fund. When the website claims, "We work closely with state and federal agencies, universities, and private organizations," that means they lobby government bureaucrats, liberal professors who meet their agenda, and other "private" environmentalist groups. It still comes down to the fact that these rich environmentalists can afford nice parcels of land with nice houses, and their "pro-environment" efforts make it more expensive (if not flatly impossible) for the rest of us to have the same. Their "righteous" cause drives up the prices of real estate, petroleum, lumber, etc., which is no big deal to them. They can afford it -- most of us can't.

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