Used Conservatively

Rep. Duncan has environmentalists all backward

Rep. Jimmy Duncan thinks environmentalists are driving up gas prices.

Most major environmental laws were passed 30 and 40 years ago. Since then, erosions have outpaced advances in water law and extinction prevention. Adequate funding for compliance has never existed, largely because fines are laughable and sometimes laughed off. Environmental laws face endless lawsuits, and the federal mining agency is rewriting laws in favor of industry.

Lawyers feast on the fight, so Democrats are happy; industry lobbyists gobble up judicial- and executive-branch appointments, leaving generous tips for their Republican servants. Both parties are happy letting environmental protections stagnate. It is absurd to think environmentalists can control international oil prices, not so absurd to think Dick Cheney already has a dozen promissory honoraria booked for his post-power talking tour.

Any honest observer can see where power resides, but Rep. Duncan thinks the Sierra Club is in cahoots with OPEC. Seriously. On the floor of the U.S. Congress on tax day, Duncan said "that's something I thought for quite some time, that these OPEC countries and foreign energy producers I'm sure are contributing big money to these environmental groups, and they're receiving huge multi-million dollar contributions that they were refusing to disclose the source of."

He also said, "The environmental groups loudly complain about urban sprawl, yet their policies are leading to more urban sprawl as they continue to drive up these gas prices. ... They are elitist types, and perhaps they're not concerned when their policies destroy jobs and drive up prices. . . They are really hurting the poor and the lower income and the working people in this country. . . Now some of these environmental groups, their policies are causing food prices to go up worldwide and, in many countries, leading to starvation."

I have been embarrassed by Jimmy Duncan before. I am proud of him for being damn near the only Republican on the right side of invading Iraq. That vote earned him my vote recently, but now he has lost it again by attempting to pin rising prices on environmentalists.

In Duncan's defense, he probably fails to see that the dollar is crashing. The strain of extravagant government spending, more extravagant under his party's leadership as usual, is taking its toll. Our meddlesome military policy and decayed standards are devaluing our currency, and our military competes with us as an oil consumer. That is why prices are rising.

Duncan has been a strong advocate for limited government spending, but if he wants to achieve that goal, he needs to recognize where power actually lies. Coal, oil, and mining interests spend more on political influence than do public advocates. It took pharmaceutical interests years and billions lobbying doctors and politicians to get Viagra in sewage-treatment-plant outflows and blood-pressure medicine in our rivers.

Health impacts from chemical pollutants hit those who breathe 40 hours of factory air a week or live downwind of industrial plants harder than anyone. To truly defend the working class, Duncan needs to stop blaming environmentalists and start paying attention to them.

Environmentalists want us to use less oil by being more efficient. They want to drive twice as far on half the gas. Reduced demand means reduced prices. Less global industry means more local industry. Environmental policy aims to stabilize and sustain economies, lowering costs, and increasing job security. The only thing environmentalists want costing more is pollution, and they favor that because it allows market forces to work. 

Duncan has environmentalism exactly backwards, and the pivot of misunderstanding is plain. In his speech before Congress, he cited an oil-industry estimate of one trillion barrels of oil, a 38-year supply, left recoverable by conventional means. To Duncan, this is a reason to accelerate drilling. Environmentalists see a 38-year supply as a 500-year supply if used conservatively. Which way do you see it?