The Oil Crisis Is (Still) Not Like A Toothache: Fighting The "Drill Now" Rhetoric

Many Americans realize that destroying environmental resources to allow more domestic drilling is a psychological panacea -- a placebo to make us feel like "something is being done."
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So there's this sudden faux-grassroots movement on the right to open up all of our wildlife reserves and our shores for oil drilling, under the pretense that it'll reduce our dependence on foreign oil and lower prices at the pump. It's even got a catchy, easily memorable slogan: "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less." And it's all the rage in East Wingnuttia.

Too bad that it's completely wrong and as far from the truth as one can get while still being in the same space/time continuum.

The "Drill now" slogan is a perfect example of how the conservative movement works. You get a plan that's easily boiled down into a series of repeatable talking points. You spread it everywhere, using your access to major media outlets to your advantage, and relying on a corps of loyal supporters to coalesce larger political movements around it. Next thing you know, despite the efforts of some of the best and most well-informed environmentalists and energy activists out there to remind us that offshore and ANWR drilling is a fool's errand at best, public opinion is beginning to shift in favor of "drill, drill, drill."

But there is some good news on that front. As Brian Angliss reports:

If there's a silver lining here, it's that 60% of the country (up 6% from February) supports new energy development, while 34% support protecting the environment. The problem is convincing people that the two aren't mutually incompatible, and that "new energy development" cannot equal "drill more oil and gas wells, mine more coal, and grow more corn for ethanol" energy development is eminently possible without relying on even more coal or natural gas power plants and more domestic oil production (that won't come on line for at least a decade anyway).

$4-a-gallon gasoline has proven to be the tipping point beyond which Americans simply cannot soak up the costs of travel by car any longer. We as a culture are beginning a fundamental paradigm shift away from the traditional model of suburban commutes by car, which is manifesting itself in all kinds of surprising ways. As I said before, we can't rely on the old ways to get us out of the problem, when it's those very same old ways that got us into it. And there's no more textbook example of "the old way" than Newt freaking Gingrich carrying water for Big Oil, while simultaneously providing greenwashed cover for John McCain's lack of a comprehensive energy policy.

Americans are smarter than we are often given credit for, and many of us do realize that destroying precious environmental resources and wildlife reserves to allow more domestic drilling is a psychological panacea -- a placebo to make us feel like "something is being done." The trick is to get the word out and keep it going across the country, so that everyone understands clearly...we need longer-term solutions and a fundamental reorientation of how our country works on every level if we're going to preserve our economy and improve--not preserve, but improve--our way of life. Drilling is fine for a cavity, but what we need to fix our woeful state is a lot bigger than what a drillbit can offer.

Next time I'll talk about some real-world solutions that can offer some short-term reductions of the economic pain, but the first thing to do is combat the idea of "drill now" as a real solution -- it's anything but.

Crossposted at Boztopia and Open Left.

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