Column: Creating a crisis

By John Bambenek

If there is one thing that Hurricane Katrina exposed, besides the usual idiocy of the blame Bush crowd, it is that our energy policy needs some serious work. Major supply disruptions plagued the South which necessitated rationing of gasoline in various areas. Power was out in areas that were relatively undamaged by the storm. Hubert’s peak oil theory was resurrected out of oblivion and given serious play.

First, let’s discuss the facts. As opposed to Sept. 11 when gas stations did engage in price gouging, that did not happen after Hurricane Katrina. The World Trade Center had no bearing whatsoever on energy infrastructure. Some gas stations decided to use the emotional impact of that attack to raise prices unethically.

Hurricane Katrina, on the other hand, knocked out much of our oil refining capability which very directly impacts that ability of oil companies to make gas. The price spike was simply a matter of supply and demand. When oil companies no longer have the ability to refine gas or the ability to transport gas due to massive power outages, you are going to have tight supplies. The price spike certainly had absolutely nothing to do with the rumors that we are running out of oil.

Now let’s discuss the real problems. A good question is why so many of our power lines are above ground and subject to being knocked over in a storm. The Ohio power outage that affected 50 million people two years ago was caused by a tree contacting the power lines. That caused a chain reaction of failures which also need to be addressed as well. Our nation’s power system is sorely lacking in anything that can be called “reliable.”

Most of our oil refining takes place in the Gulf region because those poor states are more than happy to have the refineries, while the richer states don’t want anything to do with it because it is “environmentally unfriendly.” The result is that we don’t have enough refineries, and the ones we do have are tightly grouped and subject to being taken down by a hurricane.

These same groups that fight against more refineries are the ones who think that wind farms are environmentally unfriendly, because they apparently chop up birds. I say apparently because there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that this really happens often. Of course, these are the same people who told us of the dangers of global cooling in 1975, then changed their mind, and said it was global warming not much more than a decade later. There is no evidence whatsoever that mankind is making the earth warmer, but the facts haven’t stopped this religion yet.

For decades radical environmentalists have said we need to have cleaner air, but then refuse to support common-sense solutions to our energy needs that are clean, such as wind or nuclear power. If you suggest we need to be free of foreign supplies of oil (a point with which I agree), then you need to support some replacement for that energy.

It is refreshing that some environmentalists like Earth First! are consistent and intellectually honest enough to say there are simply too many people on the Earth. You can bet the people that need to “go away” are the poorer and darker skinned among us. Food for thought, the Sierra Club is a very active pro-choice organization that has directly linked abortion to environmentalism. If Bill Bennett is going to be faulted for saying aborting black children reduces crime, why doesn’t anyone challenge the aristocrats who believe in aborting poor and minority children for the sake of Mother Earth?

We have been caged in by radical environmentalists for too long. Groups who complain about the problem and then insist we can’t apply a solution ought to be ignored. If you want clean air, let us adopt clean air solutions. Insisting that society should go back to the Stone Age is not an intelligent contribution.

John Bambenek is a graduate student and a University employee. His column appears every Friday. He can be reached at [email protected]