Opinion: What ever happened to common sense?

Published October 1, 2001

Have we lost our moral compass, our sense of priorities . . . our marbles?

We send our military men and women off to the Middle East to be maimed and killed by terrorists and Scud missiles, while protecting our interests in this vital oil region. But we fret over drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, because it might disturb the caribou–even though ANWR could contain enough oil to replace 58 years of imports from Saddam Hussein, and fuel every car and truck in California for nearly as long.

We insist that new electrical generating plants in California, Florida, and New England burn natural gas, rather than coal. Then we ban exploring for potentially huge natural gas deposits in coastal waters off those same states, as well as in most of Alaska, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and our western states. And we wonder why natural gas prices skyrocketed last winter.

ANWR drilling and political correctness

We accept at face value Gwich’in Indian claims that drilling in ANWR’s flat, desolate coastal plain will somehow affect their traditional lifestyles. But we ignore the views of Inuit Eskimos who actually live in ANWR–and favor drilling by an 8:1 margin.

We don’t dare mention that those same Gwich’ins leased a million acres of their own tribal lands for oil drilling back in the 1980s. It would be unseemly to wonder aloud how wintertime drilling some 300 miles away from their villages would harm their native culture, but year-round oil development in their own backyard would have had no adverse effects.

We certainly can’t bring up the fact that the Gwich’ins are being bankrolled rather handsomely by environmental groups and fat cat foundations, to speak out against ANWR oil activities. Nor do we dare suggest that George Tagarook, former mayor of an Eskimo village in ANWR, might have a valid point when he says environmentalist efforts to destroy their economic opportunities and drive them out of ANWR amount to cultural genocide. Talking about the Gwich that stole the Eskimos’ Christmas is just not nice.

We pay rapt attention to the Audubon Society and its Green comrades when they rage against ANWR drilling proposals. But we are too polite or politically correct to mention that Audubon has been producing oil and gas in its own Rainey Wildlife Refuge for decades, with no ill effects on the rare and endangered species that reside there–such as the Alaskan snow geese that winter in Rainey and spend their summers in ANWR.

A tale of two issues: Arsenic and CAFE

We rant on and on about a few theoretical cancer cases from minimal amounts of arsenic in drinking water: an amount equivalent to about ten little bottles of Bic Wite-Out in a million gallons of water. But we blithely ignore the specter of thousands of real deaths in cars that will be downsized even further if Congress legislates new fuel efficiency standards, at the behest of the same folks who go apoplectic over arsenic.

Two years ago, USA Today reported that Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have caused over 40,000 deaths since 1975. The standards forced automobile manufacturers to build smaller, lighter cars that got better mileage but were far more deadly in collisions with trees, walls, trucks, buses, and other cars.

The program ought to be called Conserve Our Refined Petroleum to Save the Environment: CORPSE. It’s a far more honest and accurate acronym than CAFE.

Kill, but don’t drill. Grieving families, but contented caribou. Soaring imports, but happy limousine liberals.

Global whining

We worry incessantly about a global warming theory that is promoted by attention-grabbing headlines and computer-generated worst-case scenarios–with virtually no actual evidence to back it up. Frankenclime is clearly the most powerful weapon the radicals have yet devised for their war against free enterprise, air conditioners, cars, and the U.S. lifestyle.

But it flies in the face of government studies that say the Kyoto climate treaty will cost our economy millions of jobs and $340 billion a year–while reducing hypothetical warming by only 0.1 degrees below what it would be by 2050 in the complete absence of a treaty.

The disingenuous demagogues of the Crisis Creation Industry have had free rein for far too long. It is time to confront their hypocrisies, challenge their baseless assertions, and hold them to the same standards of truth and accountability that govern the rest of civilized society.

Only then will we regain our sanity, moral principles, and common-sense priorities.

Paul Driessen is a senior policy analyst for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and principal of Global-Comm Partners in Fairfax, Virginia. Nick Nichols is CEO of Nichols-Dezenhall crisis management in Washington, DC and author of Rules for Corporate Warriors: How to fight and survive attack group shakedowns, due out this fall.