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Passing the gas test

By Henry Lamb
web posted June 16, 2003

Here's a two-part, third-grade economics test that environmental extremists can't pass.

Part 1: There are three kinds of drinks, Pepsi, Coke, and Royal Crown Cola. Government outlaws the sale of Pepsi and Coke. Will the price of R. C. Cola (a) increase; (b) decrease; (c) stay the same?

Part 2: When government prohibits increased production of R. C. Cola, will the price (a) increase; (b) decrease; (c) stay the same?

Repeatedly, environmental extremists, many of whom are in Congress, fail this test.

In reality, electricity is the commodity, produced by coal, nuclear power, and natural gas. Government, to appease the environmental extremists, has nearly outlawed coal and nuclear power to produce electricity. Did the price of natural gas (a) increase; (b) decrease; (c) stay the same?

Part 2: Government, to appease the environmental extremists, has blocked increased production of natural gas. Has the price of natural gas (a) increased; (b) decreased; (c) stayed the same?

Natural gas prices have increased as much as 700 per cent over the last three years. Surprise, surprise!

The sad truth is that environmental extremists, and some in Congress, don't care. Whatever the economic consequences of their actions, they cannot be as bad as disturbing a rattlesnake slithering across a barren wilderness. Or, heaven forbid, having to look at an oil well, despoiling a viewshed.

The idiotic notion of rewilding the world to the conditions that existed before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, reached its zenith during the Clinton/Gore years, when environmental extremists virtually ran the executive branch of government. Executives from environmental organizations went to work heading the various government agencies, which then handed out federal grants to their organizations to promote their rewilding policies. And, they were very good at it.

Madison Avenue P/R firms produced brilliant campaigns to scare the wits out of ordinary people, and then paint a beautiful picture of the "Last Great Places" that must be "saved" for future generations. Millions of people lined up to send checks to the Nature Conservancy, and to vote for new taxes to buy up the private property that greedy developers were destroying.

They failed to say, however, that the Last Great Places they were saving were for rich contributors and board members. They didn't put in their slick brochures that they were drilling for oil on their land, and beneath adjacent land belonging to someone else, while lobbying to prevent others from drilling. While they were trying to prevent others from driving SUV's, they failed to advertise that they were using donated SUVs to drive across public land to survey where "No Trespassing" signs should be erected for others. Green extremism is now being exposed.

The price of natural gas has skyrocketed, as has the price of everything in which natural gas is an ingredient. The price of everything that is affected by this "return-to-the-wilderness" thinking has risen. Consequently, economic growth has slowed to a crawl, and continues to teeter on the brink of stagnation, or recession.

Environmental extremists, and some in Congress, are quick to blame the Republicans, and refuse to recognize that it is their insistence that we stop drilling, stop logging, stop ranching, stop urban sprawl – that is the root cause of our economic woes. But then these are the same people who can't pass the third grade economics gas test.

These are the same people who lash out against any attempt to expand use of our natural resources. About a thousand of these people assembled at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington recently, to cheer a list of strident speakers who vowed to unseat the Bush administration in 2004, some calling it the worst administration in history.

They want more of the policies that caused a 700 per cent increase in the price of natural gas. They want to lock up more land for rattlesnakes (and their own oil wells, and estates for their board members). They want more factories to close, more jobs to be exported, and more viewsheds to be protected.

Let's give them another test. Will these lock-up-the-resources policies cause economic growth to (a) increase; (b) decrease; (c) stay the same?

They don't care. They have grown accustomed to government buying their R. C. Colas for them.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization, and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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