Wednesday, May 05, 2010

An analogy

Imagine you live in a one room house without plumbing. Your much wealthier neighbor has a far larger house, and has plumbing to boot.

Now imagine your neighbor strolls into your house, goes to the middle of your one room, pulls down his pants, and takes a crap on your floor. When asked why he does this, he simply says that he was worried that his toilet would clog and overflow onto his bathroom floor, which his servant would then have to clean up. Better to just go to the bathroom elsewhere, he says.

I read something that was quite eye opening the other day. Nigeria has experienced massive oil spills almost on a yearly basis. The reason is because most nations don't have the strict regulation on oil drilling that we do here in the states, so oil companies operating elsewhere have a worse track record from an environmental point of view. When there is an oil spill off of the US coast, we are up in arms, but when it happens elsewhere those citizens can't really do anything about it.

So here's the kicker. After this Gulf of Mexico incident, what I hear a lot of Americans saying is "hey, maybe we shouldn't drill off of our coasts as much, and regulate it more carefully when we do". But what I don't hear as many Americans saying is "hey, let's use less oil".

If we are using the same amount of oil, but less comes from our shores, that means more comes from the shores of poorer nations - nations who are less politically able to stick it to the oil companies when they mess up. Since more oil will come from weaker regulatory areas, that means in net there will be more oil spills because of this Gulf of Mexico disaster, not less. But the spills won't be off of OUR shores, so its not our problem, right?

The solution: gas tax. Why do you think Europe uses so much less oil than we do? They have smaller cars, more public transit, and walkable cities because they tax gasoline so much more than we do. Start the tax small, gradually increase it over 15 years so as to let our economy absorb the impact with ease. Take the tax money and pay down the deficit, fund alternative energy research, hell just give it all back to the citizens as a tax return. That is an energy policy that would reduce oil spills. Not to mention the geopolitical benefits of reducing our dependence on terrorist-funding oil.

The response to the Gulf of Mexico spill is not "drill baby, drill...just somewhere else" - it is to use less oil. But I mean, the most powerful response we could have had to 9/11 was to use less oil, too, but we didn't do it then either.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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