Now all that is in danger, because the pain of paying $60 for a tank of gas has convinced most Americans to worry less about the caribou or the recurrence of an oil spill that happened 39 years ago. Democratic leaders are preventing Congress from voting on continental shelf and ANWR drilling or oil shale development because they fear their side would lose and are making the transparently absurd claim that drilling won't lower the price of oil. They're scampering to say that they would allow drilling somewhere -- mostly in places where the oil companies haven't found any oil.
In a country with less in the way of checks and balances, which can be gamed by adroit lobbyists and litigators, we would be building more nuclear plants, and would be drilling offshore and in ANWR. We would be phasing out the corn ethanol subsidies that are enriching Iowa farmers and impoverishing Mexican tortilla eaters, and we would be repealing the 54-cent tariff on Brazilian sugar ethanol (the sugar for which would be produced not in defoliated Amazon rainforests but in the desolate and currently unused certao).
On balance, of course, I prefer our system over the more centralized, less accountable systems of France and Japan (and Barack Obama's Chicago). But it sure does have its costs.
But it also has its benefits: Public opinion, when it has changed as it has with $4 gas, has an effect. Environmental restrictionists like Al Gore have been selling a form of secular religion: We have sinned against Mother Earth, we must atone and suffer, there can be no argument, but we must have faith.
That was an appealing argument to many, perhaps most, Americans when gas was selling for $1.40. It has a much more limited appeal now that gas is selling for $4.10. The time may be coming when our lunatic environmental policies are swept away by a rising tide of common sense.