Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Tom Henry

Addiction to oil: Will it ever end?

One man's wasteland is another man's paradise.

As I've said in past columns, renewed efforts to lift the ban on offshore drilling had better be a wake-up call for the Great Lakes region.

Now, with Rep. Bob Latta and 10 other Republican congressmen on an alleged "fact-finding" trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, there'd better be a jolt of caffeine running through your veins.

I'm not saying all drilling, even in sensitive areas, is bad. Perhaps history will show we blew it if we pass up such opportunities.

But at what risk? And in lieu of what other opportunities?

Are we using sound judgment or brazen arrogance?

Somehow, we're supposed to believe our region's freshman congressman from Bowling Green is on a legit trip and not some junket, even though both presidential candidates oppose drilling in ANWR. And even though multinational corporations extracting the oil may end up selling it on the global market to the highest bidder. Translation: Don't be so quick to play that homeland security card.

Am I annoyed by high gas prices? You bet. On my family's recent vacation to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, we stayed in a town with one gas station. Unleaded was going for $4.52 a gallon.

But are we being wise about where we tap? Or suckered by oil lobbyists preying on our fears?

On Dec. 9, 2001, I had a front-page feature in The Blade that made some connections between ANWR and the Great Lakes region. The world has changed. But those connections remain.

ANWR isn't just about a bunch of caribou. Climate change isn't about polar bears, either.

In our fast-paced, remote-controlled society, we marginalize stories with warm-and-fuzzy images. The media, in an apparent attempt to survive these too-lazy-to-read times, have pandered to the nation's bad case of attention deficit disorder by playing up those images.

U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio) touts himself as a Great Lakes crusader in almost every press release his staff issues about the lakes and in almost every speech he gives about them. But he's eager to drill in ANWR. His former Ohio Republican counterpart, Mike DeWine, irked the Bush Administration by crossing party lines and voting against ANWR drilling. Several times.

ANWR and offshore drilling tell us about our values - our willingness to exploit natural resources, especially when times get tough. How far will we bend to avoid weaning ourselves off what President Bush himself once described as a drug-like oil addiction?

Ask yourself this: Why aren't more people talking about tomorrow's alternative energy forum at the Toledo Zoo, the Green Energy Ohio Northwest Ohio Regional Workshop and Trade Show?

Bill Spratley, Green Energy Ohio executive director, told me last week that advance registration was sluggish, though noting some potential developers view northwest Ohio as the "Wild West" because of its enormous potential for wind and solar energy production.

What exactly are we passing up while staying hooked on oil?

I was disappointed to read how little regard Mr. Latta apparently had for ANWR as he embarked on his trip. Talk about your preconceived notions.

Let's set aside for now what ANWR's tundra means as a breeding ground for caribou and how caribou are the lifeblood for an ancient group of 10,000 Native Americans who are part of the Gwich'in Nation.

Fast-forward to what could happen in the Great Lakes region when push comes to shove.

Will outsiders view us as a bunch of dumb hicks trying to save a polluted, worthless cluster of lakes for some butt-ugly fish called walleye?

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