Take your pick, Oil? or Water?

In 1985, Wisconsin Governor Tony Earl signed the following “Statement of Principle Against Oil Drilling in the Great Lakes” along with the governors of Michigan (James J. Blanchard), Pennsylvania (Dick Thornburgh), Minnesota (Rudy Perpich), Indiana (Robert D. Orr), Ohio (Richard F. Celeste), Illinois (James R. Thompson), and New York (Mario M. Cuomo):

“The Great Lakes are the unique natural resource binding our region. The Lakes provide us with an inestimable bounty and a special spirit. They provide us with drinking water, a recreational playground, an enormous fishery, wildlife breeding grounds, a vital transportation link and a key resource for business and agriculture. In sum, unspoiled Great Lakes water is vital to the economic health of our region.

The bottomlands of the Great Lakes are the exclusive property of the states that border them and anyone wishing to drill for oil would need the express permission of the state that owns the land in question. However, we agree that this precious resource should not be vulnerable to oil drilling and its attendant dangers. Therefore, we collectively state our opposition to oil drilling in the waters of the Great Lakes or their connecting channels.

We believe this action will protect our shared resource from an unwise risk. This document stands as evidence of our continued joint stewardship of the Great Lakes.”

“No matter how bullish one might be about alternative energy, experts agree that we will be dependent on oil to meet our nation’s transportation and energy needs for many years to come,” says Russ Harding, director of the Property Rights Network and senior environmental analyst at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. His oped piece in the Niles Daily Star, a Michigan newspaper says the Great Lakes directional drilling ban should be lifted

Apparently Rep. Frank Lasee (R) Green Bay agrees. In January, 2009 he plans to introduce a bill in the State Assembly to lift the ban on Lake Michigan slant drilling operations.

Cam Davis, Director of the Alliance for the Great Lakes says slant drilling takes place in Canada without complications, but leaks happen. “The amount of fossil fuel under the Great Lakes is so small, that it really wouldn’t fuel the country for very long, probably a matter of minutes really. Again the amount that’s down there and the amount it could supply us is not worth the risk.”

The Great Lakes basin supplies drinking water to 30 million people and holds twenty percent of the world’s fresh water. One might hope that Republicans, would act more like traditional conservatives, eager to protect that valuable natural resource. But, recent polls indicate that Sen. John McCain and the GOP leadership have at last found an effective campaign issue to rally around – nationalizing the drill, drill, drill message – despite that fact that offshore drilling may only add a 2-3% increase in supply. Now, the drill-for-votes message hits home, right here in Wisconsin.

Any true conservative should campaign for renewable energy, more efficiency in cars, higher emissions standards and expanded and improved mass-transportation, including by rail, because there is no longer any such thing as a “stable and adequate supply of oil.”

Greg Haegele, Director of Conservation at the Sierra Club says, “The truth is that the U.S. sits on less than 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Even if we drill every corner of America, the oil will only amount to a drop in the bucket and won’t have an impact on prices.”

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