Grab the Oil: Pollution Absolution

Jim Amrhein tells us three misguided assertions by environmentalists about American oil consumption, and says that the truly environmentally responsible thing for the US to do would be to Grab the Oil before anyone else gets it.

Pollution Absolution

I’LL COME STRAIGHT to the point here, folks: I’ve got a huge bone to pick with the environmental lobby’s stance on U.S. oil consumption — and you should too.

Of course, I’ve had lots of gripes with the green crowd for many years running, but with communist China rapidly dwarfing the United States’ consumption of every major commodity — and already eclipsing our growth in consumption of oil — I think the time is right to pull back the curtain on what anyone with half a brain (that leaves most of Greenpeace out, I’m afraid) should conclude:

U.S. oil consumption — the more the better — is GOOD for the environment.

Now, before I get into the nuts and bolts of proving what must seem like a rash assertion to many, I want to tell you this: I’m not an expert on oil or the history of the petroleum industry (like my co-editor Byron King), nor am I a master of macroeconomic themes (like Dan Denning, a wizard at such things). I’m just a regular guy with a nose for hypocrisy, PC dogma, lapses in logic, or just plain bullshit…

But the funny part about what you’re going to read is that I really don’t need to qualify it with any kind of disclosures about my own veins of expertise or ignorance — I’ve only done it so the greenies won’t be able to claim I’m misrepresenting myself. The fundamental truth of what I’m about to say should be OBVIOUS to anyone who can “zoom out” from the emotionally charged arguments of the green guerillas, even average Joes like me. 

In the process of showing you how they’re completely wrongheaded when it comes to U.S. oil consumption and its effects on the environment, I’m going to recap a few of the environmental lobby’s (see als political left’s) core arguments — just so that we can better pull the rug out from under them one by one:

Grab the Oil: Misguided Assertion #1: The U.S. is the biggest polluter nation on Earth

Environmentalists love to talk about the prodigious American consumption of oil as evidence of a rampant lack of regard for Mother Earth. However, if their No. 1 concern is indeed for the environment, they should be singing a different tune. Here’s why:

The United States produces far less greenhouse gasses per barrel of oil burned than China, India, Russia, and almost every other major player in the world oil market. Based on 2003 data from and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, the United States consumed 25.4% of the world’s oil, yet produced only 20.6% of the world’s greenhouse gasses (GHG) — well below the world average. Expressed as a number, the United States emitted only 0.81 units of GHG per unit of oil burned…

Conversely, No. 2 oil consumer China burned 7.57% of the world’s oil in that same year, yet spewed out 14.8% of the world’s GHG, more than 70% of what the United States emitted. That’s a ratio of 1.96 units of pollution for every unit of oil consumed — more than 2.4 times as much as the United States!

India, another developing nation often cited by environmentalists as suffering at the hands of American oil gluttony, showed a GHG/consumption ratio of 1.83 (2.25 times the United States). And Russia’s 1.63 ratio was about twice as polluting as its former Cold War adversary in terms of toxins per oil unit. 

I ask you environmentalists: From an ecological standpoint, who would you rather have burning the world’s oil — the United States or these other major oil consumers? As you can see, the United States consumes oil more cleanly than just about any other major player in the world oil market.

It’s simply a fact, whether it’s politically correct to say so or not.

Grab the Oil: Misguided Assertion #2: The U.S. doesn’t use oil efficiently

Both per capita and in total, the United States consumes far more oil than any other nation — a fact environmentalists love to bandy about as evidence of our wanton disregard for the planet’s resource reserves and woefully inefficient ways of converting oil into energy, pantyhose, record albums, and what have you…

However, according to statistics from the Pew Center, when viewed as a ratio of total tonnage of GHG produced per million dollars of gross domestic product, America’s relatively conscientious use of petroleum resources becomes clear yet again. Here are those numbers:

  • In 2000, the U.S. emitted 162 tons of airborne GHG for every million dollars in domestic wealth created. That’s nearly a 6% lower dollars/pollution ratio than even darling-of-the-greenies Canada — and almost 20% more dollars per pollution unit than China. We also beat carbon-belching Russia (the No. 5 oil consumer in the world, by the way) by more than 163%! Also…

  • In the last 25 years, the U.S.’s share of global oil consumption has declined by 6%, yet our population has grown by more than 20% — and our economy still booms at an average of around 4.5% growth per year. Translation: We’re learning to better manage our consumption and get more out of the oil we’re using, especially compared to developing countries like China and the former Soviet Union.



So why aren’t the Greenpeace boats (themselves none too environmentally friendly, I’m betting) steaming toward the China Sea and the Soviet coast right now to form a ragtag blockade? One, because the Chinese and Russians probably wouldn’t think twice before loosing the torpedoes. And two, because rank-and-file environmentalists are stupid and lazy. The vast bulk of them are jobless, pot-puffing gadfly losers who don’t bother to look at the facts before forming an opinion. That’s why they see the United States as the “Great Satan” of consumption — and why they picket on these shores instead of braving the wrath of the world’s worst polluters. 

Remember, the above data are from several years ago — the Chinese industrial engine has boomed exponentially since then. And I don’t imagine it’s gotten much cleaner, what with NO RESTRICTIONS AT ALL exerted on them by the ridiculous Kyoto Protocol the environmentalists are all squawking about. Which brings us to the next point…

Grab the Oil: Misguided Assertion #3: The U.S. doesn’t care about the environment

As it was envisioned back in the mid-90s, the Kyoto Protocol was supposed to be the holy grail of global GHG emissions reduction — an all-encompassing measure that holds every nation accountable for reducing greenhouse gasses to more than 5% below 1990 levels. As it stands today, the newly enacted protocol boasts 141 “member” nations producing a little more than 55% of the world’s GHG, yet only significantly restricts the emissions of the top 38 most industrialized countries. 

Everyone with a TV knows that the United States withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in early 2001. So-called “environmentalists” are keenly aware of this move, pointing to it as incontrovertible evidence that the environment is NOT a U.S. policy priority, at least not under the current president…

Whether this is true or not, what’s undeniably true is that the Kyoto Protocol was engineered to be extremely punitive to the United States — a nation which I’ve just proven burns its oil relatively cleanly and produces a comparatively large amount per unit consumed. Had the United States remained part of this farce, it would have been required to reduce its GHG emissions by an astounding 43% by 2012.

The only way to do this would have been to radically curb oil consumption. This was likely the goal of the entire treaty: forcing the United States to use less oil, so that more would be available for the use of “developing” (read: major polluter) nations China, India, Brazil, and about a dozen others in Africa — which are allowed under the protocol to spew as much GHG into the atmosphere as is required to meet their needs. They are literally given a carte blanche to pollute!

When you really put it under a magnifying glass, the Kyoto Protocol appears to be nothing more than a U.N.-engineered scheme to siphon oil from the United States and into the hands of pollution-exempt nondemocratic Third-World nations (many of them utterly corrupt) in U.N. President Kofi Annan’s native Africa and other zones — a disastrous move for the environment, from a greenhouse gas standpoint.

Obviously, America withdrew from this farce because it was patently unfair, not due to a disregard for the environment. Now, believe me, I’m no cheerleader for the fools on the Hill, but I’m certain that no other government on Earth spends more — both directly and through subsidies — on the development of alternative energy, clean-burning petroleum technology, environmental restoration and preservation, and any number of other eco-friendly causes. Also, lest we forget, the United States has (among other things):

  • Maintained an high-profile agency dedicated to the environment (the EPA)
  • Established and enforced ever-more-stringent guidelines for vehicle emissions
  • Radically reduced offshore oil drilling out of concern for ocean environments
  • Prohibited drilling of vast oil reserves on its own territories – again, strictly for environmental reasons



Think any of the Kyoto Protocol’s “developing” nations would do these things?

Look, I’m not saying the United States’ environmental record is flawless, or that more couldn’t or shouldn’t be done to keep things clean. But let’s tell it like it is: For being the world’s most powerful and prosperous nation, beholden to none, we police up our messes and restrain our consumption pretty well. And we don’t NEED a Kyoto treaty to make us do these things — we’ve got good ol’ democracy, free speech, and capitalism to keep us on the straight and narrow.

Grab the Oil: Pollution’s Solution: Consumption.

Here’s the bottom line to all of this point-making: If the enviro-Nazis were really watching out for Mother Earth, instead of hugging trees, sparking up doobies, and trying to play Robin Hood in the global oil market, they’d be clamoring for the United States to buy, stockpile, burn, or convert into gasoline every barrel of oil our economy could sustain to prevent the REAL polluters from getting it. And if they really wanted to do the planet a favor — you know, the whole think globally, act locally shtick — they’d trade in their oil-leaking, smoke-belching, catalytic-converter-less VW buses on a whole fleet of new clean-running cars, preferably American.

Hell, just doing this one thing would probably make us Kyoto compliant, whether we’re part of the pact or not.

Look, the harsh reality is that soon all of the oil on the planet is going to get drilled, tanked, refined, burned, and expelled into the atmosphere as GHG. It’s unavoidable. The only things we can do to help minimize the effects of this eventuality on the environment is make sure it happens as much as possible in nations that can be trusted to do it cleanly and responsibly — nations like the United States.

And as a real, thinking environmentalist, I say let’s grab all the oil we can, any way we can — after all, the fate of the natural world hangs in the balance…

Putting Earth first and politics last,
Jim Amrhein
Contributing editor
Whiskey & Gunpowder
March 10, 2005



P.S. Help make an impact — and a point. Forward this essay to anyone you think will be affirmed, challenged, persuaded, or just plain infuriated by it. I want to hear what all kinds of people have to say about this, not just Whiskey & Gunpowder readers. It’s time to take the fight to the foes…