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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: More Oil or a Cleaner Environment

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

More Oil or a Cleaner Environment

There is little that a president can do in the short-run to lower oil prices but policy does affect prices in the long-run.  The prices we pay today are in part the result of policy executed over the past forty years.  Those policies were aimed at restricting drilling or increasing regulatory standards to protect the environment, vilifying and harassing oil companies to drive up costs and replacing oil with an alternative energy source. 

The prices that we pay in the future are in part the result of policies that we enact today and those policies seem to be a continuation of past policy.  New hydraulic fracturing (fracking) techniques hold the potential to vastly expand oil and gas production but at a potential environmental cost to water quality.  Cheaper energy for degraded water quality is an important tradeoff, and no we cannot drill for oil or gas without environmental cost.  Given our very high quality of water standards and the strain to the economy by high energy prices, I favor moving the balance on the tradeoff toward more oil and gas.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may place the sand dune lizard that lives in an rich section of West Texas on the endangered species list creating a huge new hurdle oil producers must clear to bring oil based products to market (Jerry Patterson, “Patterson: Texas lizard represents the latest example of failed U.S. energy policy”).  This seems like harassment to me.  I wonder what it would cost to breed the lizards then place them back in their native environment.

The tradeoff between cheaper energy and a cleaner environment exists.  If we as voters wish to push that tradeoff towards a cleaner environment we must not complain when energy prices rise. 


  1. Morgan Heeke10/7/11 11:35 AM

    First, I agree that it is a bother to have to worry about the sand dune lizard. We already have enough obstacles when it comes to obtaining fuel. I'm sure we can find a way to maintain the breed while being able to obtain fuel. At the same time, with the high costs of fuel, it makes people more keen on saving energy and driving less. This also encourages us to find other means of energy. With high prices, working hard to find fuel seems less appealing. In the long run, it is more important to have a clean environment. We have already damaged our planet by being greedy. I am fine with not complaining about high fuel prices. I know many would, but in the long run it benefits us.

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