August 5, 2008
Political Power Flowing from the Pump
In one of the more ironic acts of political theatre we have witnessed, Speaker Nancy Pelosi last Friday ordered the lights be shut off when Republicans refused to leave the floor of the House of Representatives, determined to continue the debate over offshore drilling. Granted, Madam Speaker is often in the dark herself, but the great irony here is that she used her control over energy to stifle a debate about increasing energy supply.
One wonders if this display of power is not illustrative of a deeper malady; a lust for control that transcends the normal political power wrangling between parties. Control energy and you can control people. Nancy Pelosi used her power over the lighting system to silence her political opponents.
What are the basics, the fundamentals that a civilization requires? Food, clean water, shelter, clothing, transportation, heating and cooling, sanitation, lighting, are some of the major necessities that people need to survive and prosper. Then there are the many luxuries; telephones, televisions, computers, etc. What is the common thread? In all cases, everything we have, our very civilization requires energy. Every scrap of food, every stitch of clothing, every erg of heat, every shelter, even our sewers and drainage ditches require energy to make or to operate.
In primitive times that energy was supplied quite poorly, by the oxidation of wood or animal fats or plant oils, and from wind and water, and by the oxidation of carbohydrates in the human body and the bodies of beasts. This energy ultimately comes from the Sun (as does all energy except nuclear) and was difficult to control, although primitive leaders often tried. Rivers could be dammed, fields irrigated (or not), waterwheels could grind grain. (Keep in mind that food is energy, and is measured in calories, or how much heat is generated.) Egypt and Mesopotamia required serious irrigation for the land to be fruitful, and so the local chieftains made themselves into Pharaohs and Kings by control of that irrigation-control of the energy needed by the people. Thus civilization was born.
Each step of human history has added levels of complexity and an increase in the need for energy; Stone Age hunter-gatherers became settled farmers, and the ages are named for their material sciences: Paleolithic (old stone age) to Neolithic (new), Copper Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Steel. With the increases in population and the need for ever-more-complicated tools and techniques, governments have grown enormously in order to regulate and coordinate the new technologies and their uses. This growth of government turned elders to chieftains, chieftains to kings, kings to emperors, community organizers to Presidents (maybe). Government has become ever more intrusive as the means to intrude have developed, and the ultimate basis of that power is the control of energy usage.
That control is something those in government are loath to surrender, and this returns us to the original point of this essay; the Democrats, beholden to Big Environment, want to keep our energy resources under lock and key. Part of their purpose is to reward high dollar donors, but part of it is to maintain the kind of control that powerful people crave, and that reformers in particular lust after.
Oil is the lifeblood of the post-modern era, and there isn`t a grain of food, a stitch of clothing, a brick or board, that isn`t where it is and in the form it takes without oil. Oil runs the machines that plant the farmer`s seeds, runs the pumps that irrigate it, runs the reapers that harvest it. The farmer`s produce is processed and shipped via oil. We would all starve without it. This holds true for just about everything in our society, yet many want to restrict our right to oil. If government can control oil, it can control the individual. Those who behave in certain ways, ways favored by the energy masters will prosper, while those who are disobedient will wither.
Which is interesting, considering the animus many Environmentalists have against technology and high-energy industry. Many marry the green cause in rebellion against the kind of domination that modernity imposes on the individual. Yet their solution is to impoverish the individual in the hopes of making our civilization less complex. Many Greens believe that a simpler life would be better for individual liberty, when that simplicity disenfranchises the people who are yoked with it by reducing their abilities to control their own lives. The ability to move about, for instance, is part of the freedom we enjoy, and makes it harder for those who would circumscribe our liberties. (That's why liberals hate automobiles; they offer the average person the power to go where they will rather than where they are told.) Trucks, trains, and aircraft allow us to buy goods from all over the world, goods that are much cheaper than they would be if we had to make them in the town where we live. People want and need things, and making those things harder to acquire promotes only hardship, crime, and warfare. How many wars were fought over material goods? Despite what the Liberals claim, we have very few today. Why? Because we have a cornucopia of material wealth, more than anybody needs and available to most of us. Take this wealth away and people will fight over the scraps. Environmentalists don`t understand that empowering the government to fight ``big business`` to protect the environment will likely lead to a far worse despoiling. One need only look at the places where resources are controlled by governments like China and Russia to see the stinking wastelands they have made.
But Liberals never grasp the consequences of their actions, and gleefully turn to the government to manage resources in the interest of ``fairness``. What is more fair? One group controlling all those resources, or many? Free enterprise is fair enterprise.
Some Greens may be confused, but most on the Left are not, and that is why they seek to restrict the flow of oil; they know that power flows from a pump. They may talk about alternative energy, but they are slow to actually embrace real alternatives (like nuclear). Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barrack Obama realize the political danger of continuing to do nothing about gas prices, but the alternative -- surrendering their control of energy -- scares them more. Remember, the ``progressives`` went to Washington to fundamentally reorder society. They believe they can build a new world, perfect Mankind and America. How can they do that if they surrender the fundamental mechanism for control? If America is to be reshaped in the image of Our Messiah Obama, there must be a mechanism to force that change. Control of energy is that mechanism.
But there`s the small problem of the electorate; the public is mad as hell, and are demanding that something be done to reduce the price of gasoline. A number of people have noticed that we have large assets that remain untapped, or worse, that are now being tapped by other countries, off our coasts. Republicans want to tap that source of energy, and the Democrats, fearful of seeing their plans for change derailed, have dug in their heels.
John Kerry accidentally spilled the beans with regard to Democratic opposition to drilling in a debate with Joe Lieberman on Sunday`s Meet the Press (Aug.3):
SEN. KERRY: We only have, we only have 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. Sixty-five percent of the oil comes from the Mideast. The problem with global climate change is oil. The problem for our security is our dependency on oil.MR. BROKAW: So what you're saying...SEN. KERRY: If we go out and drill more oil, even temporarily, when it doesn't come to the pump for about seven years, you're not dealing with the real crisis, which is moving America's innovation...SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well...SEN. KERRY: ...and creativity, the creation of new fuel.
In short, Kerry is arguing that America must be forced in a direction that most Americans don't want to go. The pain caused by high gas prices is the tool he and other Democrats will use to make a fundamental shift. They are quite willing to throw the forgotten man under the Obama Express, and back the bus over Joe Sixpack several times before leaving the scene of the crime. Being our betters, Those Most Qualified, they are fully prepared to let us endure our pain so they may mold America as they see fit. They are using energy to control the populace. Their motives may be pure or may not (I would argue not) but that is beside the point; they are stopping us from getting energy to reshape our culture, an act of oppression.
(Notice, too, Kerry`s complete ignorance of how markets work; as long as the OPEC cartel is the only game in town they can produce as much or as little as they like, and charge accordingly. If we really get in the game - or even threaten to get in the game -- the risk of American oil taking money out of OPEC`s pockets will force them to drill for more. They`ll have to react to a competitor, and competition drives prices down.)
Energy usage is certainly a measure of wealth, and those who are energy poor are poor. Wealth is a measure of power, and the poor are rarely powerful. If the Democrats can restrict energy usage through an energy "crisis", they can control the flow of wealth and the flow of power. They instinctively understand this, and labor diligently to make a reality of their plan, with what at first glance appears a very confused energy policy. It`s not; the goal is to nationalize resources, to break the power of the wealthy providers of energy and draw it into their own bosoms. Remember Maxine Waters` call to nationalize oil? Nationalizing energy is one of the first priorities of tyrants. The ultimate goal of the Democrats' strategy is to nationalize these resources.
So, when we see Pelosi turning the lights out on the House Republicans to end debate, what we are really seeing is a lust for power, an attempt to keep freedom out of the hands of the average American. Pelosi`s "lights out" makes a chilling metaphor -- a symbolic "lights out" for America. Do we want a nation where our betters guide us from their high perches, where our ability to make and use energy is circumscribed by a cadre of control freaks bent on reshaping how we live to better please themselves? Drilling for oil seems to be a straightforward proposition, but the implications for our future society are staggering. We cannot allow the collectivists to lock up our energy, lest all we hold dear should fade away in the general brownout.
Timothy Birdnow blogs at timothybirdnow.com.