Energy rhetoric defies reality 

click to enlarge David Lien
  • David Lien

As a big-game hunter and former Air Force officer who cares deeply about our country and its rapidly dwindling wildlands and wildlife, I've about had it with the fairy-tale demagoguery spewing from oil and gas industry executives and their front groups, not to mention the politicians beholden to them for campaign contributions, who've been doing their damnedest to hoodwink us into believing their "drill-everywhere" rhetoric.

Listen up, folks, because the facts here speak for themselves: Sixty-five percent of the world's known oil reserves are in the Persian Gulf; the United States has only 3 percent, but we account for 26 percent of world demand. Drilling in western Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Alaska, New Mexico or anywhere else in this country will not do us any good long-term. It's simple fifth-grade math and common sense.

Foreign oil imports will continue to go up because U.S. oil production peaked 35 years ago and has been declining ever since. Even big finds like Prudhoe Bay did little to slow the decline. Ever since domestic oil production peaked, the need for energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy has been obvious. But instead, like an addict on a binge, we continue to pursue a policy of "strength through exhaustion."

As the Salt Lake Tribune editorial board recently wrote, "A junkie gets desperate when his junk runs out. He's got to have more, and he'll do just about anything in order to keep feeding his habit. America is like that about oil. As our supply from foreign sources gets more expensive and rumors float around that those dealers are running out, we're panicking, ready to trade our natural resources, even the future of the planet, for one more hit."

Our nation simply does not have enough oil to affect world or domestic oil prices. The only way out is to improve fuel efficiency of our vehicles, which consume 40 percent of the oil we use, and by relying on smarter, cleaner and renewable ways to power our economy. Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, for example, would not have any impact on gas prices until 2025, and even then it would only reduce prices at the pump by a trivial 1.5 cents per gallon.

Despite the fact our current policy of near-total dependence on fossil fuels has led to repeated supply shortages and price spikes, three economic crises, two oil field wars and global warming, some remain mired in the same old stupidity that brought us here. Tapping what little oil there is in the Rocky Mountains, according to our own government's best estimates, will not reduce our dependence on foreign oil in any significant way.

Besides, worldwide we're using oil five times as fast as we're discovering new reserves. The numbers are irrefutable: The current drilling boom in the West will not move us any closer to energy independence, and it isn't even a possibility if we continue to rely primarily on oil and gas to power our economy. In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, Colorado voters were asked about the best way to solve the energy crisis. They chose renewable energy over drilling by 54 percent to 21 percent.

As a concerned citizen, Clinton Greene says, "To be anti-fuel-efficient is to give aid and comfort to terrorists and groups fighting American soldiers. Patriotic Americans should welcome being required to conserve; even soccer moms should be embarrassed by their sport-utility vehicles powered at the price of U.S. soldiers facing death far from their own families. The best way to honor the dead of 9/11 is to take conservation seriously."

Unfortunately, some of Colorado's congressional lawmakers don't agree. U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn recently said, "This "drill-nothing' Congress must cut the rhetoric and get to work."

Yeah, get to work exposing the "drill-everywhere" members of Congress facilitating the liquidation of our rapidly dwindling wild and roadless public lands for the equivalent of "drops in the bucket."

Some of our local and national politicians need to take a grade-school math (and common sense) refresher course. Let's hope they do it soon.

David Lien is an avid Colorado big-game hunter and climber who has noticed the detrimental impacts of energy development on wildlands and wildlife during his hunting and climbing forays into the mountains.

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