The New York Times Should Take Credit Where It’s Due

In a piece by Jad Mouawad, Tuesday’s NY Times reports that Oil Price Rise Fails to Open Tap.

He identifies a number of reasons for the lack of responsiveness on the supply side:

  1. OPEC countries’ “explicit goal is to regulate the supply of oil to keep prices up”. Iran and Iraq’s productive capacity has been crippled by war and civil unrest. In non-OPEC countries, problems are due to “sharply higher drilling costs and a rise of nationalistic policies that restrict foreign investment.”
  2. Some regions are simply running out of reserves, e.g., Norway, Britain, Prudhoe Bay.
  3. “In many other places, the problems are not below ground, as energy executives like to put it, but above ground. Higher petroleum taxes and more costly licensing agreements, a scarcity of workers and swelling costs, as well as political wrangling and violence, are making it harder to raise production…”
  4. “Foreign investment could help Mexico produce oil from deeper waters, but that is a controversial proposition in a country where oil has long been seen as part of the national patrimony.”
  5. “The Russian government has been muscling Western companies to gain more control over its energy resources. That rise in energy nationalism could freeze new investment and slow any meaningful growth in supplies there for years.”

Surprisingly, in an otherwise decent article, absent from this report is the credit that is due to the New York Times itself (and like-minded entities) in their long-standing efforts decrying the search for oil and gas within the US. A search of the Times site for the words “editorial drilling oil gas”(sans quotes) over the past few years reveals a constant stream of editorials in the Times decrying efforts to drill for oil and gas. Examples include:

Leave Bristol Bay Alone, December 6, 2006: “President Bush is thinking about rescinding a longstanding presidential order that specifically prohibits oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s pristine Bristol Bay… Mr. Bush has been speaking out lately about the importance of making America more energy independent. Few things are more important for the new Democratic Congress than developing an energy policy more heavily weighted toward conservation, efficiency and development of alternatives to traditional fossil fuels. This might be a rare area in which both sides can work together, but opening Bristol Bay to drilling would be exactly the wrong way to begin the conversation.”

Regulatory Games and the Polar Bear, January 15, 2008. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne could do the polar bear … a favor by ordering a timeout and halting the [oil] lease sales for at least a year… There is no urgency to lease Alaskan waters. President Bush’s suggestion that new oil production will bring short-term relief at the pump is nonsense, since oil fields take years to develop. It is urgent to help the bears.

Losing Patience, August 21, 2007. Dirk Kempthorne’s arrival … raised hope among conservationists that he would moderate the Bush administration’s aggressive search for oil and gas in some of the country’s most environmentally sensitive lands. This has not happened.

Protecting a Monumental Sculpture, February 18, 2008. “There is every good reason to call this plan to a halt on aesthetic grounds. But there are other reasons too. This stretch of the lake is also a critical breeding ground for many species of shorebirds.”

Drain America First, July 25, 2006. “The Senate measure is narrower and less mischievous than the House bill. Yet it, too, is aimed exclusively at increasing production. … This is mind-boggling. The bill’s stated purpose is to reduce fuel prices. But while the gulf may hold enough natural gas to affect the price of that commodity, the same cannot be said of oil.”

And of course the NY Times has been in the forefront of opposition to any drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge based on the logic that it would supply only six months of US oil consumption while forever sullying the Wildlife Refuge (an arguable claim).

Using this logic we could shut down every farm in the U.S. – and the world – since no single farm provides more than a few hours’ worth of food, and food production is the single greatest threat to terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity worldwide.

This is not to say that drilling – or farming, for that matter – is acceptable everywhere, but reflexive opposition to energy production is not.