From a crowd-pleasing chant at the Republican National Convention to op-eds at the New York Times, the refrain “Drill, Baby, Drill” is looming large in the American psyche. In the Gray Lady’s pages, Robert Hahn of the American Enterprise Institute and Peter Passel of the Milkin Institute (motto: Milkin’ The Issues) investigate the idea of penetrating mother Earth for more of that sweet, sweet dino juice. Opponents of drilling offshore and oil extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve (ANWR) argue that the benefits would be marginal. Hahn and Passel don’t necessarily disagree. They reckon 7b barrels could be pulled from ANWR, with another 11b available offshore, Hahn and Passel estimate the U.S. could thusly increase output by six percent, resulting in a 1.3 percent drop in worldwide prices. Meh. But the two argue that at $100/barrel, that oil would be worth nearly $2t not including the benefits of reduced pump prices for consumers. Development costs including environmental clean-ups would cost only $400b, making drilling an “economic no-brainer.” Hahn and Passel estimate the “non-use value” of ANWR at “only” $11b. The authors could “imagine a political bargain in which several hundred billion dollars went into a fund with a charter to preserve wilderness in the United States, or climate-stabilizing rainforests in Africa and Latin America.” In short, to protect the environment we must defile the environment. In reality, drlling is one of those idealism vs. pragmatism issues where win-win is a no-no. As long as the “Drill, Baby, Drill” refrain is still echoing out of St Paul, this kind of compromise is a long way off.
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