Thomas Sowell

 What happened is what usually happens when government restrictions are ended: There was more production of oil. In fact the 1980s became known as the era of an "oil glut" and gasoline prices declined.

 Today production is being held back, not by price controls, but by political hysteria whenever anyone suggests actually producing more oil ourselves. Organized nature cults go ballistic at the thought that we might drill for oil in some remote part of Alaska that 99 percent of Americans will never see, including 99 percent of the nature cultists.

 People used to ask whether there is any sound if a tree falls in an empty forest. Today, there are deafening political sounds over oil-drilling in an empty wilderness.

 Nor can we drill for oil offshore, or in many places on land, again for political reasons. Nor can we build enough refineries or even build hydroelectric dams as alternative sources of power.

 Many of the same people who cry "No blood for oil!" also want higher gas mileage standards for cars. But higher mileage standards have meant lighter and more flimsy cars, leading to more injuries and deaths in accidents -- in other words, trading blood for oil.

 Apparently the only things we can do are the things in vogue among nature cultists and the politicians that cater to them, such as windmills and electric cars. That is why we would be better off if the government did nothing and let people adjust their own energy consumption individually in their own ways as the prices of gasoline and fuel oil rise. But that is also politically unlikely.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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