New Castle News

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June 23, 2014

Mitchel Olszak: Iraq is good argument for fracking

NEW CASTLE — A friend of mine is a big advocate of shale gas drilling.

It’s not because he owns land and is looking forward to royalties. He owns no property.

And it’s not because he loves drillers and the corporations behind them — quite the contrary.

He supports shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing because he sees it as a way for the United States to free itself from its Middle East oil addiction. He reasons that by developing a mostly American energy program, this country wouldn’t have nearly the foreign policy headaches it endures now.

And it would save money to boot.

If you look at the raw numbers, oil produced in the Middle East looks awfully attractive. The cost of extracting a barrel of oil from that region’s desert sands is less than $10.

Compare that to extracting the same amount of oil from the Gulf of Mexico. The price tag there is about $50 per barrel.

But there is a hidden cost to Middle East oil that doesn’t show up in the data or even at the pump. It’s the billions — and even trillions — the United States spends on military might to protect its oil interests in the Middle East.

I’ve always thought fuel prices should include a special tax for the Pentagon. That move alone would encourage a broader debate on questions of energy independence and efficiency. But a system that conceals the true cost of Middle East oil helps to fuel the ongoing addiction.

We’re now watching the nation of Iraq once again unravel. This was a highly predictable tragedy. I know, because I predicted it years ago.

Iraq is a collection of factions, brutally held together in the past by the likes of Saddam Hussein. When America removed him, the result was a vacuum of sorts, with various players rushing in to fill the void.

These days, Washington is playing one of its classic finger-pointing games, as Republicans and Democrats seek to blame the other party for the current Iraq mess and future consequences.

I am particularly bemused by the arguments of so-called neo-conservatives, the folks who first pushed to have America oust Saddam. They were the ones who said the United States would be welcomed as a liberator, and that the cost of the invasion would be covered by Iraqi oil sales. Hmmm.

Now they are saying the current violence in Iraq is because President Obama failed to keep U.S. troops in the country. But had that happened, American soldiers would have become targets, with hundreds more killed for Iraqi oil. The neo-cons conveniently ignore that reality.

Interestingly, this is the same political group that routinely points out the inefficiency of having government meddle extensively in matters here at home. But somehow, when it comes to foreign countries like Iraq, they suggest the United States government can do it all.

Well it can’t, and it won’t. The nonsense spewed about how America could transform Iraq by getting rid of Saddam was a product of both arrogance and ignorance. And there are consequences to believing nonsense.

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