High Gas Prices And Environmentalism

About a year ago I wrote a long detailed blog about the trade-offs involved in environmental debates. The gist of my point was that the real environmental disagreements, the place where liberals and conservatives split, are where environmental regulations interfere with economic growth. Conservatives, being the defenders of economic growth above all else, tend to oppose the environmental regulations, and liberals, being the defenders of the environment above all else, tend to support the environmental regulations. Of course, some conservatives will claim that the environmental regulation will do nothing or very little to improve the environment and some liberals will claim that the environmental regulation will do nothing or very little to reduce economic growth or jobs, but if you get beneath this bickering, the true disagreement is conservatives put a higher emphasis on economic growth and liberals put a higher emphasis on the environment (I should also add here that conservatives believe that higher economic growth itself, in the long run, is better for the environment than many environmental regulations).

This is also why you see rich (limousine) liberals much more pro-environmentalist than say, inner city liberals. Inner city liberals, being on the lower end of economic growth and income, tend to benefit more from the other side of that tug of war – economic growth. Ask a poor inner city liberal if s/he cares more about the amount of greenhouse gases the next environmental regulation will reduce or the chance that her company will lay her off either because it had to reduce costs or move out of state because of the burdensome environmental regulation, and you don’t have to be a genius to see which one of those she would care most about. This is why environmentalists tend to be in larger numbers in rich, very wealthy areas. People like Barbara Streisand, Hollywood liberals, and environmentalist millionaires, are a lot less concerned with economic growth and bottom dollars than are the poor. Members of the Sierra Club, for example, are largely upper-income city dwellers.

In other words, no matter which way you cut it, environmentalism is something the poor members of society disproportionately pay for, and there is no better example of that than the current high gas prices. Why are gas prices so high you ask? Well, the answer to that is simple: supply and demand. While it is true that demand has been significantly rising, supply has also been greatly limited by environmentalists.

The Wall Street Journal writes:

In fact, Mr. Schumer and most of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate–the very crowd shouting the loudest about “obscene” gas prices–have voted uniformly for nearly 20 years against allowing most domestic oil production. They have vetoed opening even a tiny portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas production. If there is as much oil as the U.S. Geological Survey estimates, this would increase America’s proven domestic oil reserves by about 50%.

They have also voted against producing oil from the Outer Continental Shelf, where there are more supplies by some estimates than in Saudi Arabia. Environmental objections seem baseless given that even the high winds and waves of Hurricane Katrina didn’t cause oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico. In the 1970s the environmentalists and their followers in Congress even protested building the Alaska pipeline, which today supplies nearly one million barrels of oil a day. If they’ve discovered some new law of economics in which a fall in output with rising demand can cause a reduction in price, we’d love to hear it.

This is why politicians love to talk about ‘greedy oil companies’ and ‘record profits’, they know very well that they can’t talk about the actual economics of the situation, because if they do, they are going to have to explain to the American people that it was them, and their ‘love for the environment’ that helped cause such a drastic rise in oil. So instead, they try to confuse the issue and rely on the economic ignorance of the American voter.

The Wall Street Journal continues with:

The dirty little secret about oil politics is that today’s high gas price is precisely the policy result that Mr. Schumer and other liberals have long desired. High prices have been the prod that the left has favored to persuade Americans to abandon their SUVs and minivans, use mass transit, turn the thermostat down, produce less consumer goods and services, and stop emitting those satanic greenhouse gases. “Why isn’t the left dancing in the streets over $3 a gallon gas?” asks Sam Kazman, an analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who’s followed the gasoline wars for years.

Scan the Web sites of the major environmental groups and you will find long tracts on the evils of fossil fuels and how wonderful it would be if only selfish Americans were more like the enlightened and eco-friendly Europeans. You will find plenty of articles with titles such as: “More Taxes Please: Why the Price of Gas Is too Low.” Just last weekend Tia Nelson, the daughter of the founder of Earth Day, declared that even at $3 a gallon she wants gas prices to go higher.

At least Ms. Nelson is honest about wanting European-level gas taxes. We doubt that many American voters would be as enthusiastic. If you think $3 a gallon is pinching your pocketbook, fill up in Paris or Amsterdam, where motorists have the high privilege of paying nearly $6 a gallon thanks to these nations’ “progressive” energy policies. (See nearby chart.)

Look, I have no problem with the honest, forthcoming liberals that welcome higher gas prices based on environmental principles. I disagree with them, I believe that economic growth and prosperity for all is more valuable than the (what I consider) small environmental gains that may result in higher gas prices. But while I disagree with those liberals, I respect them for being forthcoming and honest about their intentions. By being forthcoming about their intentions, they are certainly doing a lot more than the politicians in congress.

The rest of us as voters, however, need to face tough choices, what do we consider more important, (what I consider, small) environmental gains or a cheaper price of gas? We need to choose because we can’t have both, and in the future, if you want to address your anger at those who truly helped cause a higher price of gas, don’t point to the oil companies and CEO’s, they are simply doing what they have always been doing, maximizing profits, instead point to those environmental liberal Democrats that helped create this mess by voting down year after year any attempt at increasing supply.

The full Wall Street Journal article can be found here. I have blogged more on this here, and here. A liberal’s defense of higher gas prices can be found here.

14 Responses to “High Gas Prices And Environmentalism”

  1. Christina says:

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  2. Michael says:

    HP – In an earlier post you described about a dozen factors causing the rise in oil prices. Environmental regulations is but one on that laundry list.

    I love the way Republicans control the White House led by two oilmen, both houses of congress, one house until last month led by a guy from an oil state, the supreme court, yet the cause of the high oil prices(and most every other ill that besets this nation) is one Jewish liberal lawyer from Brooklyn.

  3. Sirc_Valence says:

    Michael, the U.S. Supreme Court has NOTHING to do with the price of petroleum, that is determined by the basic laws of supply and demand.

    You have just admitted that you can’t be honest enough to admit that libs have blocked sensible measures to increase America’s energy supply and to provide more energy independence (based on speculation and fanaticism) despite who is in the White House and in Congress. When there is less of something it becomes more valuable and thus its price increases. China is undergoing a cointinued economic expansion and that is driving up the price of petroleum. It is that simple.

    Can you defend your arguments or the position that the Democrats have taken in a rational and coherent way? If you can’t it is OK to admit that.

    There have been enormous changes in the ecosystem of this planet prior to the Industrial Revolution and you and your foolish comrades, without being able to prove that by blocking measures which will improve the economic situation for millions of Americans will change inevitable climate by a centilla of a degree. How does that make sense? What purpose does this position support?

    There is a better approach, one that is friendly to nature and to freedom and civilization. I’ll quote George Reisman:

    Whether global warming comes or not, it is certain that nature itself will sooner or later produce major changes in the climate. To deal with those changes and virtually all other changes arising from whatever cause, man absolutely requires individual freedom, science, and technology.

  4. Angelo says:

    Drilling in ANWAR (a desolate spot of land) was first rejected by congress in 1996. If it had been allowed we would just be receiving its 1.5 million barrels per day into the US market. No, it would not have solved the problem but it would have eased the problem by 1.5 million barrels per day.
    Why can’t we both regulate higher auto mpg and drill?

  5. Hey Michael,

    Environmentalist regulations are just one factor on a laundry list, but that doesn’t mean that environmental factors are insignificant. Besides, on that list of factors, environmental factors are the ones that we have the most control over. So if you limit the causes of the high gas prices to those we as a nation can address, environmental factors become one of the primary causes of the high gas prices.

    Btw, nobody said that the cause of the high oil prices is solely the fault of “one Jewish liberal lawyer from Brooklyn”, more generally, the cause of the high gas prices is primarily the fault of “one liberal enviromental group called the Democratic party”, Schumer just being but one participant of it.

  6. Sirc_Valence says:

    An incredibly large number of professors are either morally unreliable or just traitorous (see The Professors -by David Horowitz), which would include the former condition.

    Otherwise more of us would be focusing on the main issues that should be raised by any discussion related to energy independence and international relations.

    I’m quoting professor Rush here: It’s Big Dictator, Not Big Oil Robber Barons: Nancy Pelosi should know that the real robber barons are not Big Oil. They’re Big Dictator from Bolivia to Venezuela to Iran… and I would add Saudi Arabia to that list. Let’s get real people.

  7. Michael says:

    Sir Valence-

    To review, here are tghe causes of high oild prices.

    Increased consumption by India and China – How is this the democratic parties fault.

    Low fuel economy standards – Yes it was Ari Fleisher who said that President Bush was opposed to conservation, that we were blessed with bountiful resources. How is this a democrats fault. it is Republicans who have opposed increased fuel efficiency standards.


    Lower oil production in Iraq – Yes it was a republican president who pushed through a war of choice in Iraq in a repupblican controlled senate. It was a republican defense secretary who ignored the advice of most of his military commanders that more troops were necessary to secure Iraq after toppling Sadaam. It was a republican secretary of defense who referred to the Sunni insurgents killing our troops and massacring Iraqi civilians as “a few dead-enders”. It was a republican vice president who repeatedly the last three years declared the insurgency in “its final throes”. It was a republican presdent who stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier and declared “Mission Accomplished” when more than 2,000 more soldiers were to be killed. It was a Republican administration who selected Halliburton, the Republican VP’s ex-company in a no-bid contract to repair the main pipeline from the northern territories of Iraq where 80% of Iraqi oil comes from and that contractor three years later despite hudreds of million of dollars spent has been unable to repair the pipeline, leaving Iraq three years later generating less oil than when Saddam was in power.

    It was a republican president who spent all of his diplomatic capital in ignoring the will of the international community in Iraq that has emboldened Iraq to accelerate their nucleur program knowing the distrust the rest of the world has towards our president.

    It was a republican president who ignored the dire warnings of a major hurricane approaching sat silently on a conference call from his vacation home while the head of the atmospheric association predicted that the levees would fail to hold the water. His FEMA failed to respond in a timely manner where the nations largest refineries were located.

    It was a republican congress that passed a requirement for ethanol in cars to pander to the state that has the first presidential caucus.

    It is a republican majority in both houses that can’t pass Alaskan oil driling.

  8. Sparsh says:

    Here we go,
    I am all for higher gas prices, but I’d much rather see the price at pump as a reflection of higer taxes. Currently the price of our gas does not reflect its cost to society. Inner city residents, where automobile traffic is the densest are shouldering the external costs of burning fossil fuels. Studies have shown vehicle emissions to be directly linked to the the greater occurance of asthma in inner city residents. This leads to missed days of work, wages, school, and productivity. More recently a study has shown that ozone, a pollutant that comes from our tail pipes, disproportionately affects urban dwellers.

    I have to go to work now but you’ll get another earfull later.

  9. Michael,

    …and it is Democrats who continue to block , and have blocked (through a filibuster, no less, something that requires a minimum of 60 Senators to overcome, a higher number than Republicans in the senate), exploration in one of the most oil dense areas of the world: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and in the Outer Continental Shelf. All the other methods of decreasing the cost of oil, specifically heavier regulations on auto makers, has a negative impact on jobs, economic growth, and overall efficiency.

    Yet drilling in the Arctic and the Outer Continental Shelf, has the exact opposite affect. It would create more jobs, increase economic growth, and overall efficiency while at the same time – because of new technologies and so forth – protect and maintain the environment.


    You’re proving my point here, leaving aside for the moment your dubious claims and what (very little) impact gas prices would have on that, you make clear just what I have been saying all along: liberals want higher gas prices.

    Can you send that memo to the politicians in office?

  10. Michael says:

    Drilling in Alaska will not solve all of the republican created problems on the list. These problems are not all “decades old” like the Republican talking points memo says.

  11. Michael says:

    By estimate of the Department of Energy, opening ANWR would result in a reduction of foreign oil of only 4% when it is at its peak capacity 20 years from now. Not much of an impact. I am in favor of responsible drilling in ANWR however this is just one piece to resolve the problem. It is however the onlt piece that can in any way be blamed on the democratic party so it is the one that gets traction.

  12. According to U.S. Geological Survey estimates, drilling in the Artic alone (without even including drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf) would increase America’s proven domestic oil reserves by about 50%, that is a good chunk more than anything you blame on the Republicans.

  13. pundint your name sounds something i’d eat. Your site is annoying, just deal with it. I hate whiners. Stop talkin about it, stop dealing about just go with it u foolish foolish person.

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