Lately I've seen a number of Web sites and emails exhorting Americans to press their government to explore for oil in a parcel of land in ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the northeast corner of Alaska.
The ANWR debate is nothing new and it was a hot topic back in the 1970's oil crisis. Proponents argue that this location may hold vast deposits of oil which could bring relief to the current shortages of oil and thus tame the high prices in the US and the rest of the world. Opponents include the natives and environmentalists who fear that such exploration and subsequent drilling could endanger this natural setting robbing it and its inhabitants (humans and animals) of its ecological diversity and wealth.
I am not sure which side of the debate holds the better argument. Personally I don't like to see natural settings overrun by industrial concerns, i.e. the oil companies. What I do know is that Exxon-Mobil's earnings topped $40 billion in 2007 and surely they will easily exceed that figure this year. As people learn of these outlandish profits by the big oil while their savings are being squeezed, there is bound to be some backlash. That has manifested itself in the form of calls for special taxes on oil companies.
Couple that with the inevitable emergence of fuel economics and alternative energy and it's not hard to guess that oil companies are worried about their prospects. To me, these pro- oil exploration campaigns are not about alleviating oil shortages, but more about distracting the public from the abuses of the oil companies. Many go even further to shift the spotlight away from the big oil and cast it on the liberals, democrats, or Arabs in a shameless effort to create public sympathy and support for the oil companies. One wonders who the real authors are.
Oil companies already have millions of acres of land they can start exploring, but that's not enough. ANWR may hold large reserves of oil, but this campaign smells more like a land-grab and less like a sincere effort to help calm the oil crunch. Blaring their propaganda machine in times of panic and despair is always a good way to assure power and profits.
Review history and see how dictators and tyrants have come to power. Their reigns have almost always preceded by periods of unrest and panic when people are at their most vulnerable and can be easily deceived by empty promises and blustering rants. Once they tap into the herd mentality, they are assured of their golden positions. I want a way out of this oil mess too, but not enough to sell out this country to oil thugs. They're beyond rich enough already.