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Campus Media Response: Don’t Return to 1970s Economic Anemia

Lamenting BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Mark Costigan of the University of Oregon’s Daily Herald calls for an end to all offshore drilling. Faced with the objection that this would mean importing more of our oil, Costigan bites the bullet and says we should stop foreign oil imports as well:

If oil companies stopped buying oil from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, we would lose about 24 percent of our oil imports. The price of gas would rise and people most likely would be discouraged from driving. The oil companies could invest the money they would have forked over to rich serfs in clean-energy projects and have a head start at dominating a new market. This would satisfy both free-market Republicans and “gas-tax” proposing Democrats. Unite both parties for economic growth and environmental progress? Sounds like a deal to me.

But does Costigan remember the last time we stopped drilling offshore and stopped buying foreign oil? As Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute reminds us, restrictions on offshore drilling after the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969 set the stage for the energy crisis of the 1970s, which also included an embargo by Arab oil producers. The 1970s were not exactly a time of progress and prosperity.

Those who propose imposing controls on the production (or importation) of oil in response to the Gulf spill should reconsider the consequences.of this proposal for economic growth. Oil spills do have tragic human consequences. But energy from petroleum is also the lifeblood of modern civilization. When an economy is already hemorrhaging wealth, the solution is not self-imposed anemia.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

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Valery Publius is the pen name of a teacher living in the American South.