Vice President Al Gore said last week, in a bid for the largely uncommitted environmental vote, that if he becomes president he will sign an executive order banning any new offshore drilling for oil and gas along the California and Florida coasts. What would the oil companies do with their 36 existing leases off California and 146 off Florida for which they have already paid billions of dollars, but have yet to begin drilling? Mr. Gore seems to be saying, "Let them eat crude." To a liberal like Mr. Gore, all big things-from oil companies to SUVs-are evil, except big government. Has Mr. Gore considered what would happen to oil prices should he ban offshore drilling? What about our current over-dependence on foreign oil? Remember the Arab oil boycott 25 years ago that produced long lines at gas stations and rationing? Mr. Gore said his proposal would be part of a bold environmental agenda. That means additional regulations and an unnecessary depletion of the American way of life, including the freedom to drive the types of cars we want. He said this agenda would be the centerpiece of his presidential campaign. Most of that campaign will be based on bogus science, a theology of Earth worship, and an appeal for even more government control of our lives, lest we burn up and die in a nation run by Republicans. Before "environmentalism" became a creed, there were conservationists who cared about the quality of air, land, and water. Conservationists, though, saw the world as full of opportunities. Environmentalists see the world as full of problems which only government can solve. A 1998 Heritage Foundation report on the environment compared environmentalists and conservationists. Environmentalists believe nature is best left undisturbed, because humans harm whatever they touch and people who disturb nature are guilty of a crime. Conservationists believe the balance of nature includes humans and solutions to environmental problems can be balanced with human needs and development objectives. Environmentalists think every risk is avoidable and that the federal government should invest our money into eliminating risks at any cost. Mr. Gore writes in his book, Earth in the Balance: "I have come to believe that we must take bold and unequivocal action: we must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization." That's a little over the top, isn't it? Especially if there is no crisis, other than one made by people whose only objective is power over others. Environmentalists believe regulations are necessary and good, but conservationists think regulations can be good or bad, and can create more risk and offer less protection. Environmentalists believe centralized command-and-control regulation is necessary, but that means more federal bureaucrats and administrative agencies making decisions for us. Conservationists believe a wealthier society is a healthier society, and those who own resources need freedom and incentives to implement efficient, effective solutions. Some people don't understand science and will tend to rely on "experts" who are sometimes selectively quoted to advance a political agenda. Since the "Cranberry scare" of 1959, through hyperbole about Red Dye No. 2, DDT, cyclamates, coffee, saccharin, electric blankets, video display terminals, benzine in Perrier water, amalgam dental fillings, cell phones "causing" brain cancer, and so much more, bogus science and government have teamed up to scare and intimidate people into believing the doctrine of a terminally ill planet absent the intervention of lawmakers and regulators. If Vice President Gore gets his way, the American way of life as we've known it since the end of World War II will come to an end. The sacrifices resulting from Mr. Gore's plans would be worth it if the planet were actually in danger. But what is actually in danger are our freedoms and our money. Mr. Gore suggests in his book that the environmental threat is greater than any enemy America has ever faced. That's not true. The threat is Mr. Gore's radical environmental policies if he ever gets the chance to implement them.
-© 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate