Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
June 22, 2008

    Just two weeks ago, as you and I were still reeling from "Pump Shock", a panel in the U.S. House of Representatives voted AGAINST lifting the ban, a ban now in force for decades, on drilling for oil and natural gas in our nation's outer continental shelf. This despite the fact that China-yes, China!-is right now preparing, on behalf of the Cuban government, to tap into the extensive oil fields lying deep beneath the waters just a few miles south of Florida's Keys. And despite the fact that Great Britain, Denmark, and Norway, nations long known for their friendliness to the concerns of environmentalists, have for decades been extracting huge quantities of oil from underwater deposits lying off their shores and have done so with no damage to the environment. Finally, and almost beyond belief, the House panel's vote took no account of the fact that even when a thousand or more oil rigs were demolished in the Gulf of Mexico by Hurricane Katrina, there were no-repeat, NO- oil spills. The state-of-the-art technology that is used today for exploiting underwater oil deposits has been shown to be environmentally safe.
   Over the years, however, the powerful environmentalist lobby has developed an elaborate mythology based on the deficiencies of a long outmoded (and long since abandoned) technology, a technology that can only be described as primitive in comparison with what is used for drilling today. And this mythology is given additional credibility thanks to a propaganda linking oil-spills involving tankers to alleged dangers from drilling, even though oil-spills involving tankers have nothing whatsoever to do with the procedures involved in drilling but everything to do with careless navigation and in some instances with the use of single-hulled rather than double-hulled  ships.  This environmentalist mythology, with the backing of the lords of the media and a phalanx of left-wing politicians, has induced in Congress a chronic paralysis with respect to our nation's best interests, at least vis-a-vis the rational exploitation of the oil and natural gas reserves that lie within our maritime jurisdiction and that could be augmented further by the proper use of our vast shale and coal deposits, deposits that could be converted with existing  technology into immense quantities of fuel.
    Given the damage to our economy that the soaring price of a barrel of oil has already caused and will continue to cause with perhaps even escalating fury, and given the threat to our national security that comes from enslavement to foreign oil, it is supremely important that clearer thinking should come to prevail in the U.S. House and Senate.And the sooner the better! But don't hold your breath!
   Those who would maintain the existing restrictions on the exploitation of our own resources are disposed to argue that, even were we to reverse our present policy, it would take at least a decade before fulf-scale production could come on line. This is true. But what do we gain by further delay? An even greater catastrophe a decade from now? Others may say: why don't we produce more from those federal lands that have already been leased for drilling? The answer to which must take into account the inevasible fact that full-scale production is necessarily preceded by the time-consuming process of mapping and testing and the construction and installation of the equipment required, during all of which time the fields are officially listed as non-productive, though essential development is taking place.   Moreover one can plausibly surmise that once we are perceived by OPEC and other oil- producers to be getting serious at last about making use of our own reserves, OPEC may well decide to increase its own rate of production (and thus make possible some lowering of price) in the hope of inducing us to relax again, returning to our customary bondage to foreign oil. In addition a major national commitment to serious, well funded programs of research into alternative kinds offuet along the lines of the enterprise that produced the atomic bomb would restrain OPECs greed still more.
   And finally an important measure that we could fairly easily adopt would be to cut away all the legislative red tape that has thus far hindered for a third of a century the construction of American refineries. The last new refinery in the U.S.A. was built in 1976.

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   May I share with you two persuasive discussions of the magnitude of the crisis with which we are faced, together with a proposal for programs that could set us on the right path at last if only Congress would act.  The essays appeared in a single issue of  The Wall Street Journal, the issue for June the twelfth. One presentation is an unsigned editorial. The other is an essay by a regular columnist for the Journal, David Henninger.

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$4 Gasbags
       From: The Wall Street Journal
                   Editorial for Thursday, June 12, 2008

   Anyone wondering why U. S. energy policy is so dysfunctional need only review Congress's recent antics. Members have debated ideas ranging from suing OPEC to the Senate's carbon tax- and-regulation monstrosity, to a windfall profits tax on oil companies, to new punishments for "Price gouging"--everything except expanding domestic energy supplies.
   Amid $135 oil, it ought to be an easy bipartisan victory to lift the political restrictions on energy exploration and production. Record-high fuel costs are hitting consumers and businesses like a huge tax increase. Yet the U.S. remains one of the only countries in the world that chooses as a matter of policy to lock up its natural resources. The Chinese think we're insane and self-destructive, while the Saudis laugh all the way to the bank.
   While energy "independence" is an impossible dream, there's no doubt the U.S. has vast undeveloped fossil-fuel deposits. A tiny corner of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge contains an estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil and would be the largest producing oil field in the Northern Hemisphere. Yet the Senate blocked that development as recently as last month. The Outer Continental Shelf is estimated to contain some 86 billion barrels of oil, plus 420 TRILLION cubic feet of natural gas. Yet of the shelf's 1. 76 billion acres, 85% is off-limits and 97% is undeveloped
   Engineers recently perfected refining solid shale rock into diesel or gas, which may amount to the largest oil supply in the world-perhaps as much as 1.8 TRILLION barrels in the American West. THAT'S ENOUGH TO MEET CURRENT U.S. OIL DEMAND FOR MORE THAN 2 CENTURIES.  Yet as late as 2007 [a majority in Congress] attached a rider to the energy bill that prohibits leasing the federal interior lands that contain at least 80% of America's oil shale...
   These supply guesses are probably conservative, because the only way to know for sure is to drill exploratory wells. Yet most of Alaska and offshore are cut off even from modern seismic TESTING. Many areas haven't been examined since the 1960's, when exploration technology was far more primitive. This has led to the believe-it-or-not situation in which the Chinese are prepping to drill in Cuban waters less than 60 miles off the Florida cost. American companies are banned from drilling in American waters nearby.
   Yes, we know, increased drilling is no energy cure-all; new projects take about a decade to come on line. Then again, more than a few experts say that new production could affect price as the market perceives a new U.S. seriousness to increase supplies. Part of today's futures speculation is based on the assumption that supplies will remain tight for years to come, even as Chinese and Indian demand surges....
   Refineries for gasoline are stretched to the limit, but multiple regulatory barriers impede new construction or even expansion at existing facilities. Then there is the inevitable lawsuit downpour from the environmental lobby....
   The oil-rich areas that Congress wants to leave untouched are accessible with minimal environmental disturbance, thanks to modem technology.   Hurricanes Katrina and Rita flattened terminals across the Gulf of Mexico but didn't cause a single oil spill. As for anti-carbon "theology", oil will be indispensable over the next half-century and probably longer, like it or not. Airplanes will neverfly on woodchips, and you won't be able to charge your car with a windmill for some time, if ever....
    It looks like the public is increasingly ready for ... change, In a May Gallup poll, 57% favored "allowing drilling in U.S. coastal and wilderness areas now off limits." [Emphasis added]

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Drill! Drill! Drill!
         From: The Wall Street Journal of Thursday, June 12, 2008
         By: Daniel Henninger

   Charles de Gaulle once wrote off the nation of Brazil in six words: "Brazil is not a serious country." How much time is left before someone says the same of the United States?
   One thing Brazil and the U.S. have in common is the price of oil: It is priced in dollars, and everyone in the world now knows what the price is. Another commonality is that each country has vast oil reserves in waters off their coastlines.
   Here we may draw a line in the waves between the serious and the unserious.
   Brazil discovered only "yesterday" (November) that billions of barrels of oil sit in difficult water beneath a swath of the Santos Basin, 180 miles offshore from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The U.S. has known for decades that at least 8.5 billion proven barrels of oil sit off its Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts, with the Interior Department estimating 86 billion barrels of undiscovered oil resources.
   When Brazil made this find last November, did its legislature announce that, for fear of oil spills hitting Rio's beaches or altering the climate, it would forgo exploiting these fields?
   Of course it didn't. Guilherme Estrella, director of exploration and production for the Brazilian Oil Company Petrobras, said, "It's an extraordinary position for Brazil to be in."  Indeed it is.
   At this point in time, is there another country on the face of the earth that would possess the oil and gas reserves held by the United States and refuse to exploit them? Only technical incompetence, as in Mexico, would hold anyone back.
    But not us. We won't drill.
   California won't drill for the estimated 1.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil off its coast because of bad memories of the Santa Barbara oil spill - in 1969.
   We won't drill for the estimated 5. 6 billion to 16 billion barrels of oil in the moonscape known as the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) because of--the caribou.....
   Our waters may hold 60 TRILLION untapped cubic feet of natural gas. As in Brazil, these are surely conservative estimates....
   We live in a world in which Russia's Vladimir Putin and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez use their vast oil and gas reserves as instruments of state power.....
   One may assume that Mr. Putin and the Chinese have noticed the policy obsessions of our political class. While other nations use their oil reserves to attain world status, we give ours up. Why shouldn't they conclude that long term, these people can be taken? Nikita Krushchev said, "We will bury you. " Forget that, we'll do it ourselves.
   Putin intimidates Ukraine, Georgia, the Baltic states and Poland with oil and gas cutoffs, while Chavez uses petrodollars to bankroll Colombian terrorists. Cuba plans to exploit its Caribbean oil fields within a long tee shot of the Florida Keys with help from India, Spain, Venezulela, Canada, Norway, Malaysia, even Vietnam. But America won't drill....Katrina wrecked the oil rigs in the Gulf with NO significant damagefrom leaking oil....
    The goal shouldn't be "energy independence!" a ridiculous notion in an economically integrated world. It's about admitting the need to strike a balance between the energy and security realities of the here-and-now and the potentialities of the future. Some of our best and brightest want to pursue alternative energy technologies, and they should be encouraged to do so, inside market disciplines. But let's at least stop pretending the rest of the world is going to play along with our environmentalist moralisms....
   This is the year Americans joined the real world of energy costs. Now someone needs to explain to them why we--and we alone--are sitting on an ocean of energy but won't drill for it.... [Emphasis added]