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Are We All Still Environmentalists?

Roger Pielke Jr. cites some interesting polling data purporting to show the percentage of Americans considering themselves to be "environmentalists" has declined dramatically over the past 20 years. Today just over 40 percent of respondents answer "yes" to the question "Do you consider yourself an environmentalist or not?"

Does this mean that Americans are less supportive of environmental protection than in the past? I doubt it. One possibility is that an increasing percentage of Americans reject the idea that the environmentalist movement has a monopoly on what it means to be "pro-environment." Americans who support environmental protection may feel uncomfortable with either the tactics or policy prescriptions embraced by establishment environmental groups. If so, it should not be much of a surprise.

A decade or so ago --back in my own activist/think tank days -- I commissioned polling work on what Americans believed it meant to be "pro-environment," finding that many Americans saw "conservative" approaches to environmental protection -- e.g. decentralization, protection of property rights, non-regulatory measures, etc. -- as "pro-environment." (See summaries here and here.)

I believed then -- and believe now -- that this and other polling data suggest that establishment environmentalist groups lack an enforceable monopoly on what it means to be "pro-environment." Insofar as conventional "greens" dominate the field, it is by default. Conservative and libertarian types generally -- and conservative politicians in particular -- have largely ceded the field. They either endorse conventional policies on the cheap, or oppose establishment environmentalist proposals outright without proposing a positive alternative. My own somewhat-academic effort to outline such an agenda can be seen here, but I've hardly answered every problem (or even come close). If only John McCain or some other market-oriented politician would take seriously the need to develop a pro-environment alternative, they might even have a ready-made constituency waiting in the wings.

Thomas_Holsinger:
IMO it is a combination of success, over-reaching and takeovers by the fundraising machines. Success = we're all environmentalists now, by the original definition, and the original goals have been achieved.

Over-reaching and the takeover by fund-raisers are related. The usual pattern of the latter is that they perpetuate their power and income by inventing new dragons to slay, with the slaying needing money. This phenomenon is not confined to environmental groups, or even to political spectrum.

As an example, the "cop-killer" bullet fuss within the National Rifle Association about ten years ago was really a factional dispute over control of its lucrative fund-raising apparatus.

This phenomenon has also resulted in the "Crisis Crisis" with ever more extravagant claims about multiple imminent calamities impending us as more and more non-governmental organizations engage in hyperbolyptic fund-raising campaigns among the gullible on their mailing lists concerning whatever is going on at the moment, or is not going on at the moment, or should be going on at the moment, or would be going on were it not for the earnest efforts of worthy recipients of contributions from faithful contributors.
8.14.2008 10:57pm
Smokey:
It can't be credibly denied that Congress is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the neo-Luddite enviro lobby.

America is one of the very cleanest countries on Earth today -- yet listening to the watermelon lobby, you'd think we're all China-type uber-polluters [I remember Pittsburgh in the '50's, when you couldn't see across the river because of all the industrial pollution. Now, 99.999% of that pollution is gone, and the entire country has been similarly cleaned up].

One of the central problems caused by the 'mentalist movement is that they and their Congressional string puppets have learned to game the system, by gerrymandering the voting process.

Now, politicians select their voters, rather than allowing the voters to select their representatives. Whoever wins their party primary in a Democrat district will be in Congress; and whoever wins the Republican primary in a Republican district will do a cake walk into that Congressional district seat. What the citizens want doesn't matter.

Gerrymandering makes democracy DINO -- democracy in name only. It makes it easy for special interest groups like the enviro lobby to get control of individual members of Congress, who then dance to their green tune. We see it every day, like when Nancy Pelosi even refused to allow a vote to drill for oil -- something that the American people overwhelmingly support. And who can blame the citizens? America is a very clean country, and its citizens are being crushed by high gas prices. Inexpensive gasoline and a clean environment are not mutually exclusive, no matter what the anti-democracy watermelons may claim.

If voters were allowed to select their representatives, rather than vice-versa, the U.S. would have plentiful energy -- and gasoline would cost a lot less. As it is, the desires of American citizens are deliberately ignored by those who presume that they know what's best. Only their enviro puppetmasters matter to Congress, because the system has been gamed by gerrymandering.

Until voting citizens reclaim the right to select their own representatives, the situation will only get worse.
8.14.2008 11:48pm
DangerMouse:
Conservative and libertarian types generally -- and conservative politicians in particular -- have largely ceded the field. They either endorse conventional policies on the cheap, or oppose establishment environmentalist proposals outright without proposing a positive alternative.

Chalk me up as the one that opposes establishment environmentalist proposals outright without proposing a positive alternative.

I don't recycle on principle. It's a complete waste.
8.14.2008 11:54pm
Hoosier:
I'm NOT an environmentalist. I'm "conservationist." Like TR.

Gotta problem with that?
8.14.2008 11:58pm
Frater Plotter:
To a certain extent, yes, "we're all environmentalists now". But this needs to be understood in two senses.

One is the shallow sense that certain "environmental" ideas are trendy or popular. See, for instance, the popularity of organic foods among people who cannot really explain what they are or what their purported importance is.

The deeper sense, however, is that the mainstream has absorbed the notion that the living environment needs to be accounted for in decision-making: not merely as an aesthetic preference or a faddish trend, but because there are human consequences of environmental damage and wasteful use of resources.

Successful corporations have built green buildings, for instance, not to be trendy but because they make economic sense. Sooty smokestacks are regarded as undesirable and primitive, not as signs of progress. New technology is expected and planned to use resources more efficiently, not to dominate and consume more of them.

These are results, of course, of "environmentalism" in the sense of a scientifically- and economically-based understanding of the environment and our actual dependence upon it -- not "environmentalism" in the sense of a hokey spiritualized worship of all things green.
8.15.2008 12:26am
Boyd G (www):
Environmentalists aren't interested in the environment. They just want to control our lives, and the environment is nothing but their tool.

In my arrogance, I view the human race as the pinnacle of life on Earth. Everything we do here on this planet should be to advance ourselves. We must bend the environment to our will, and throw off the bonds of the lecturing environmentalists who merely want to tell us how we must live.

Pfft. I'm smart enough to figure that out on my own. The Earth is our oyster. It exists to serve us.

Bask in my hubris. :-)
8.15.2008 12:36am
Malthus:
The reason those Americans don't consider themselves "environmentalist" is that they they are breeders who have rightly come to the conclusion that breeding is incompatible with preservation of the environment.

Any breeder's carbon footprint greatly exceeds that of the childfree person who trades his bicycle in for a Humvee, for example.
8.15.2008 12:53am
Contentious:
"If only John McCain or some other market-oriented politician would take seriously the need to develop a pro-environment alternative, they might even have a ready-made constituency waiting in the wings."

Fixed it for you...
8.15.2008 1:20am
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Save the Whales! Collect the entire set!
8.15.2008 1:50am
crane (mail):
I think you're right that many people are simply attaching a different meaning to the word "environmentalist" than they did twenty years ago. There's a similar phenomenon with the word "feminist", where modern young women who fully expect that their future husbands will treat them as equals and they'll have careers where they get paid as much as a man say they are not feminists, or even that they oppose feminism.
8.15.2008 2:06am
David Warner:
I think Thomas_Holsinger nailed it.

Remember that Karl Rove made his name in Direct Mail. Nasty business.
8.15.2008 2:36am
Thomas_Holsinger:
hyperbolyptic = apocalyptic hyperbole

The fund-raising spiels of environmentalist organizations remind me very much of fund-raising spiels by the radio preachers my grand-aunt had on all the time when we visited while I was growing up.
8.15.2008 2:42am
Kazinski:
As the former President of the Redwood Jr. High school ecology club, who helped organize a march of over 500 on the first Erthday in 1970, I can say that we are all environementalists. I know from personal observation (and measureable statistics) that the environement is cleaner now than it was in 1970. Where conservatives differ from greens is mainly in atire, greens want everone to wear a hair shirt, and think virtue is just in denial (for others). If we actually let them have their way there would be a backlash that would discredit the environmental movement for decades.

Many environmentalists believe that we should stop adding new road capacity with the express aim of increasing traffic congestion to force people out of their cars. They oppose most if not all power plants, and they champion things like bio-diesel which just tinker around the margins without having the capacity or the economics to improve the environment or help the economy. The massive subsidies that the green lobby and their corporate co-opters advocate are mostly pork, and merely bog down the economy.
8.15.2008 3:25am
Sarah (mail) (www):
I associate environmentalism with idiotic commercials from Chevy that tell me I shouldn't wash my hair as often as I feel is necessary -- I seriously doubt they tolerate crunchy hair in their secretaries. Things like that are why, if you ask me if I'm an environmentalist or not, I'm going to hear a question more like:

"Are you willing to support taxing plastic bags, refusing to solve today's problems because of random fears about tomorrow, and put the welfare of microbes and tree frogs over that of, e.g., human children?"

So of course I say no. The question no longer addresses keeping toxic chemicals out of lakes, tolerating insanely dirty cities that make you sick just walking outside, or even just common-sense stuff that my penny-pinching parents taught me as a small child, like turning off a light when leaving a room you're not going to be in for a while. Heck, the latest "environmentalist" hobby horse is forcing me to buy lights that are better left turned on (if you want to save money) and that give me migraines.

To put it another way, "environmentalism" has jumped the shark -- just as feminism, which now produces reactions in the form of books entitled Save the Males (with a subtitle of "Why Men Matter") -- did, ten to twenty years ago.
8.15.2008 8:23am
common sense (www):
Malthus,
If we all stop breeding, then what is the point of saving the environment? Also, do we really assert that a carbon footprint is a critical measure of any person's impact on the environment?
8.15.2008 8:31am
Brett Bellmore:

As an example, the "cop-killer" bullet fuss within the National Rifle Association about ten years ago was really a factional dispute over control of its lucrative fund-raising apparatus.


As a life member, I could comment on how superficial that analysis is, but I don't want to hijack the thread.

Yes, in the developed nations the environmental movement triumphed, and movements never go away when they triumph, because they're run by people who make a living running them. We were all environmentalists when it was all about clean air and water, the label has become a bit less popular now that it's been captured by people who'd view a massive dieoff of the human race as a good thing, and will tell you so to your face.
8.15.2008 9:18am
notalawyer:
At Sarah, who wrote about

common-sense stuff that my penny-pinching parents taught me as a small child

I'm cheap, and many of the things I do out of cheapness correspond to things the enviros want us to do out of greenness.

Let's start a movement.
8.15.2008 9:51am
FantasiaWHT:
I like Conservationist rather than Environmentalist. I believe in generally reducing consumption and roughly the current level of regulation which have drastically cleaned up our waterways and air.

Environmentalism having gone the way (connotation-wise, at least) of feminism is an excellent comparison. Both were begun by proud people and picked up as a rallying cry by masses, and both were hijacked by radicals to the point where the masses now disdain them.

The whole global warming scare is merely the product of a crowd who has run out of dragons to slay. The environmentalists have won all their battles and defeated all their foes, and thus found their influence waning. They couldn't handle their lack of power, so, like that God-awful movie Dragonheart, they have to put on a complete charade to convince us that there's yet one more dragon to slay.
8.15.2008 10:04am
FantasiaWHT:
One more thing:


They either endorse conventional policies on the cheap, or oppose establishment environmentalist proposals outright without proposing a positive alternative.


That's largely because the "establishment environmentalist proposals" are designed at fighting problems that don't exist, and thus, don't actually require "positive alternatives".
8.15.2008 10:06am
John M. Perkins (mail):
I prefer "caretaker."
But then I voted for David Cobb.
McKinney won't get my vote.
8.15.2008 10:27am
Houston Lawyer:
Current environmentalism more closely resembles a religion than anything else. The cult of global warming is most evident. It seeks to cause guilt and ostracism in those who don't follow the way. It even allows for the buying of indulgences in the form of carbon offsets. As in many religions, those doing the preaching often fall short. However, the true believers are more than willing to join in the chant of "do what I say, and not what I do".
8.15.2008 10:40am
Oren:

I like Conservationist rather than Environmentalist. I believe in generally reducing consumption and roughly the current level of regulation which have drastically cleaned up our waterways and air.

As opposed to some folks that want to dismantle the entire regulatory apparatus and punt it back to the states. I consider myself an environmentalist in the sense that, in my analysis, the majority of environmental regulation has a favorable cost/benefit ratio.

As far as liberalizing off-shore drilling in the US right this second, it won't do a lick of good because of the oil rig shortage. Oil-field surveying and construction companies are booked past 2010 and somehow, I don't think they will be chomping at the bit to drop their current plans and drill here.
8.15.2008 10:42am
David Sucher (mail) (www):
For 40 years have been watching (in a professional capacity) the contortions of "conservatives" to claim the mantle of "environmentalism" with '"conservative" approaches to environmental protection -- e.g. decentralization, protection of property rights, non-regulatory measures, etc' and it is all bunk.

Except for TPL et al (charity which simply and appropriately buys things) there simply is no effective conservative approach. Anyone who is familiar with my book 'City Comforts' and my eponymous blog will know my skepticism of liberal dogma and such things as tax increment financing and eminent domain -- but I can't stand to hear the BS from self-proclaimed conservatives about how "free market" approaches will work. As I say -- though I know it will fall on deaf ears -- it's all bunk.
8.15.2008 11:18am
John McG (mail) (www):
There is probably a similar dynamic for those oppposed to abortion.

Most people don't like abortion, but they like to pro-life movement even less.
8.15.2008 12:07pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Environmentalists aren't interested in the environment. They just want to control our lives, and the environment is nothing but their tool.
Environmentalists are losing credibility for the same reason that screaming "racism" in 1970, or even 1980, would cause white people to immediately fall on their knees and start begging for mercy. Today, the cynical and manipulative scamsters like Jesse Jackson have pretty well destroyed this as an effective strategy for getting your way--to the point that real racism is probably an issue in some cases, but Jackson and the other race scamsters have cried wolf one too many times. Environmentalism hasn't quite reached that point, but it's getting there.
8.15.2008 12:09pm
Oren:
CC, even if I stipulate to the current "crying wolf" status of enviros, what is your position on the past environmental action for cleaning up the air and water. There are many that want to 'roll back' those protections.

The wisdom of implementing new environmental protections is independent of the retrospective analysis of past protections, right?
8.15.2008 12:13pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
At any one point in time, "environmentalism" means "more environmentalism than we have now". We have a lot more environmental protection than we used to... even liberals admit this indirectly when they try to scuttle free trade with nations because they don't have "adequate" protections.

So yeah, there's a sizable amount of people are generally satisfied with the amount of environmental regulation that's happening now... and there's a sizable proportion that views some of the current regulation level as excessive.

So its no mystery why less people consider themselves environmentalists... as our standards got higher, the definition of what an environmentalist is gets smaller and smaller until only the nutjobs are left in the cage, swinging from the trees and flinging feces at the majority peering into the enclosure in morbid fascination.
8.15.2008 12:16pm
rxlawstudent:
I'm not sure that the proposals of today's "radicals" are more radical than the measures and goals of the major environmental statutes, which were passed in the 70's and 80's. But environmental quality was much worse back then, and I think that our contempt for today's radicals has a lot to do with the success of earlier "draconian" measures. I think another part of the problem is that early measures have by and large dealt with the low hanging fruit, and continuing to improve environmental conditions is a much more difficult proposition--both technologically and economically. As industry is already heavily regulated, it is likely the case that the easiest gains to be made would involve regulating certain aspects of public consumption...but as the consumers are voters, and will not respond well to restrictions upon their consumptive behavior...it's likely that more and more draconian measures will be imposed upon industry in an attempt to make up the difference.
8.15.2008 12:22pm
Yessica:
Crane's point makes a lot of sense to me. It could be that fewer people identify themselves as environmentalist because they've engaged in a thoughtful exploration of what are the proper ways to approach environmentalism and have concluded that the mainstream green organizations are going about it the wrong way. But another possibility, which seems more probable to me, is that the term, like "feminism" or "liberal," has simply been mocked and ridiculed by brilliant folks like Rush Limbaugh, to the point where embracing it requires subjecting oneself to the same treatment.
8.15.2008 12:23pm
Francis (mail):
This is really kind of silly, because it's only measuring a reaction to a word, not a policy.

For example, the biggest environmental problem facing California today is the likely collapse of the Bay Delta ecosystem. Real professionals, like the GM of MWD, do not doubt the existence of global warming and the synergistic problems it creates, including rising ocean levels, collapse of levies, salinity intrusion, warming rivers (bad for fish) and changes in time of peak flows in the San Joaquin and Feather rivers.

Is Jeff Kightlinger (or Lester Snow, or any of the serious water buffaloes) an environmentalist? I haven't asked him recently; he's too busy to answer that kind of question. He is, however, a realist. And since MWD's job is to bring a lot of water to Southern California every year, the reason he's busy is he's trying to build the coalitions needed to make major changes in the way water moves through California before global warming kills the Delta and the California economy.

Responding to global warming and fisheries collapse (see Kevin Drum's blog) is no longer the province of environmental extremists; it's now a mainstream position. So people who don't call themselves environmentalists, because they don't want to be tarred by association with the loony fringe, nevertheless have incorporated what used to be extremist thinking into their daily lives.
8.15.2008 12:34pm
Sarcastro (www):
Environmentalists disagree with me. I can only assume they work on blind faith. Not like me, I work on facts. And by facts, I mean declarative statements.

People who disagree with me are super annoying. I hate those people. Paradoxically however, I like to run me belief system based on annoying people. Everything they say I believe the opposite!

Anyhow, we beat the environment like 10 years ago! It was the final boss after racism and sexism!
8.15.2008 12:36pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
For the price of a few vowel and consonants a day, you can help people like Sarcastro who are starving for attention.
8.15.2008 12:42pm
ARCraig (mail):
John McCain is about as market-oriented as Mao.
8.15.2008 12:56pm
Oren:

John McCain is about as market-oriented as Mao.
It's now officially time to close the thread.
8.15.2008 1:18pm
David Warner:
"Real professionals, like the GM of MWD, do not doubt"

Nor did the British military professionals (Kitchener, Haig, Fisher, Hamilton, et. al.) entrusted almost exclusively with the conduct of WWI before the arrival of the Americans (to the exclusion of the elected civilian authorities, not to mention those outside the government like Churchill who could argue circles around them - with reason and fact to back him up).

The result: millions of causalities to no end whatsoever (the Somme, Passchendaele, et. al.) and the British on the edge of defeat.

Professionals don't get to where they are by doubt.

Appeals to authority are for medieval theologians, not American citizens.
8.15.2008 2:27pm
George Hawkins (mail):
If we have no better information, carbon footprint is proportional to cost, so cheaper is better. For example, nuclear plants pay a lot of wages for guards, inspectors, technicians and lawyers, and the money goes for things that generate CO2, so nuclear plants have a carbon footprint.
I would like to see conservative actually mean that the world would still be a good place to live in a thousand years. If you really are conservative, that is not such a long time.
A minor question about off shore drilling: How much money would we get per barrel for the oil extracted? Mineral rights holders frequently get very little if they don't bargain well.
8.15.2008 4:56pm
Seerak (mail):
If only John McCain or some other market-oriented politician would take seriously the need to develop a pro-environment alternative, they might even have a ready-made constituency waiting in the wings.

The market IS the pro-environment alternative. It never was anti-environment -- just anti-environmentalist (what is called "environmentalism" is just another Leftist anti-capitalist political movement, and that's likely to be the realization dawning upon the general public).

After all, how exactly are we supposed to live in accordance with the rest of nature while we abandon the only social system that is suited to *human* nature -- capitalism?
8.15.2008 5:16pm
Kazinski:
David Sucher,
Well then for 40 years you either haven't been paying attention or you are just can't understand that the environment is a luxury good. So the only way to get to a clean environment is conservative economic policies that increase prosperity. Increased prosperity has two very important side effects which have fueled all of the environmental progress we have seen the postwar:

Decreased birth rates.

Enough technology and money to find solutions to environmental problems.
8.15.2008 6:10pm
Ohismith (mail):
At least the American people have finally stopped lying to ourselves about being environmentalists.
We aren't even close.
8.15.2008 7:28pm
Smokey:
Francis:
"This is really kind of silly, because it's only measuring a reaction to a word, not a policy. For example, the biggest environmental problem facing California today is the likely collapse of the Bay Delta ecosystem."
Oh, please, Francis, educate us ignorant hoi polloi: When, exactly, is your 'collapse' of the Bay Delta ecosystem scheduled to occur?

And how much $$$$$$$$$$$$ are taxpayers expected to pony up to prevent this mythical "collapse'?

Numbers, please.
8.16.2008 1:04am
Freedom, Soar! (mail):
Popular ideas, movements, get hijacked by the Left and used to advance their political agenda until the "brand" wears out. The '60s started out as a hippy-driven cultural liberation and ended as a Marxist-led destructive force, which was soon discredited. "Ecology" was the next popular idea to be hijacked, and it has had a much longer run, but today's discussion is evidence that its "brand" is wearing out. An interesting question is what emerging popular idea will they hijack next, a necessary tactic given that their explicit agenda will never win in a fair and open debate.
8.16.2008 10:39am
Oren:
FS, much of what the hippies set out to accomplish is now widely accepted and is no longer counter-cultural. Funny you should mention Marxism and ecology in the same vein though, since they are so diametrically opposed.
8.16.2008 6:26pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Smokey,

The San Francisco Bay Delta ecosystem will collapse from salt water intrusion when the Delta island levees collapse from an earthquake. A scenario for that can be found in Marc Riesner's A Dangerous Place.

It could happen tomorrow. It might not happen for fifty years. But it's gonna happen, and probably sooner rather than later. A Richter 7+ earthquake on the Hayward Fault is guaranteed.
8.17.2008 4:22pm
DC Enviro Lawyer (mail):
Adler and Pielke are hardly ones to talk about the public's so-called lack of identification as environmentalists. The real reason is that the Right has done to environmental movement what it did to the women's rights movement. It made feminism a bad word and it's done the same to environmentalists. No environmental position is framed these days without the preface "extreme" or "extremist" in front of environmentalist. The Rush Limbaughs of the world have coined the phrase "eco-nazi" and "eco-terrorist" and use these words indiscriminately to apply to everyone from the Animal Liberation Front to The Nature Conservancy. In such a climate, is it no surprise that the world has lost its power? This thread is a perfect example of the type of rhetoric we environmentalists face.

While people may not call themselves environmentalists, Adler is correct about one thing -- people are more concious than ever about environmental concerns, sustainable food choices, and global warming. People get that there's more than one way to be green and increasingly they're applying that to their own lives. What they shouldn't buy is Adler's notion that all the environmental issues in the world will simply go away if we let "the market" do its thing without any government regulation.
8.18.2008 4:27pm
Rocky Raccoon:
There are really two issues here - whether Americans are less concerned about the environment these days, and whether these studies really reflect this when they toss around terms like "environmentalist" and "conservationist", which mean so many different things to so many different people (and differ in meaning three decades ago than now).

The problem with the term "environmentalist" is that beginning with the rise of the far-right media (Fox News and right-wing radio) in the 1990s, this rise was accompanied by smearing environmentalists by taking the most extreme elements (who have very little to do with environmentalism, and are much closer to just general anarchist ideology) and portraying them as some sort of spokesmen for environmentalism. Those crazy people burning SUVs and whatnot have nothing to do with conservation and environmentalism, but if you flip on the TV you'd think the opposite. They do not define environmentalism any more so than the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas (whose anti-gay members protest by cheering at the funerals of iraq war soldier victims) define christianity.

Those idiots who climb into, then pout in, trees to prevent logging have no power in this country except that they are nominated by partisan media to represent the environmentalist movement.

Just look at the graph on this blog - it is the early 1990s when people start reacting badly to the environmentalist label. That is the same time when partisan media began gradually gaining influence. Consider Rush Limbaugh and the like shrieking about some idiots burning down homes under construction, etc.

These days, "environmentalist" means different things to different people, which makes this graph uninformative, since it is just varied, subjective labeling. To some, the label means anyone who likes the environment, and to another it means hairy Berkeley students with anarchist tendencies. The only thing this graph demonstrates is that beginning in the the early 1990s, people started to less highly of environmentalists. In that sense, it demonstrates the power and success of partisan media, and the reason it has grown into a position of considerable power in this country.


[crossposted on the Prometheus blog.]
8.18.2008 7:46pm
TJIT (mail):
Oren,

You said
As far as liberalizing off-shore drilling in the US right this second, it won't do a lick of good because of the oil rig shortage. Oil-field surveying and construction companies are booked past 2010 and somehow, I don't think they will be chomping at the bit to drop their current plans and drill here.
Not correct.

If areas with greater potential are open it is a trivial matter for the companies that have the rigs under contract to shift them to more high value drilling.

For example rigs drilling small fields off Texas and Louisiana could be towed to larger fields off of California and Florida in a matter of weeks.

In that case there would not even be much exploration risk because the companies already know where the petroleum is located in those areas.
8.18.2008 10:53pm
TJIT (mail):
Oren,

You said,
As opposed to some folks that want to dismantle the entire regulatory apparatus and punt it back to the states. I consider myself an environmentalist in the sense that, in my analysis, the majority of environmental regulation has a favorable cost/benefit ratio.
Be careful.

There is clear evidence that things like the endangered species act provide strong disincentives for maintaining habitat that would support endangered species.

Another example of bad environmental regulation is the clean air acts oxygenate requirements which mandated the use of compounds like MTBE and Ethanol.

This regulation has caused and continues to cause vast amount of environmental degradation and habitat destruction.
8.18.2008 11:19pm
TokyoTom (mail):
DC EL and Rocky have it partially right - the right wing has done what it can to make "environmentalist" a bad word. But enviros have themselves to blame as well by becoming another group of rent-seekers, and then there's the inability of those concerned with real problems outside of the US to get much traction at home.

It's pretty clear that environmentalism is not at all dead. Rather, it was very successful in cleaning up the environment in the 70s and 80s, and the environment has continued to improve - so in part, their own success at home has made environmentalism seem less relevant to voters - even as problems outside the US and globally have worsened.

Further, my own view is that we have too much environmental regulation, with the result that environmental protection is much more costly than it need be. Even though this is not a situation created by the enviros - legislators and industry are much more responsible - the right has successfully blamed enviros while ignoring how industry has protected itself with the aid of law makers. So the enviros have been getting more blame than they deserve.

However, enviros have failed to respond to some attacks, which do have a fair point - that government command and control is often an overly expensive and fractious way to protect the environment, and that many environmentalists fail to understand basic principles - which is that environmental problems arise when resources (streams, lakes, the air, wildlife) have no clear owners (who can't invest in or defend the resources), and that socialized ownership and regulation may often make environmental problems more difficult to solve, by shifting them from private fora to zero-sum conflicts before politicians and bureaucrats.

FWIW, I remain a misanthropic enviro-Nazi.
8.19.2008 4:45am