A Quite Quotable Energy Tour-de-Force
Lawyer Makes Case for Exploration
Even as portions of the National Energy Policy were being drafted, the second AAPG President’s Conference on National Issues presented information to decision makers in Washington, D.C., on “Energy & Environment: A Partnership That Works.”
The half-day session, held September 23 at the Reserve Officer Association Building across the street from the U.S. Capitol, included presentations on supply and demand issues, industry environmental practices and impact and evidence of environmental responsibility—with the intent to bring a view of rational science into the policy debate.
In providing the lunch-time address, activist lawyer and AAPG member Victor Yannacone, of Long Island, N.Y., gave a wide-ranging address that stressed the necessity of becoming active in the political process and communicating views to the public and media.
A pioneer in the environmental movement, Yannacone and his wife Carol founded the Environmental Defense Fund in 1967 and won several environmental victories including the first air pollution case brought in an American court. He also was counsel for Vietnam veterans in the Agent Orange case and coined the phrase and created the field of Environmental Law during the DDT litigation of 1966.
“Rational science must become the basis for national resource policy, especially our national energy policy,” Yannacone told the luncheon audience.
“There is no rational justification supported by a fair preponderance of credible scientific evidence for a moratorium on exploration of the Outer Continental Shelf for oil and natural gas anywhere off the East Coast, the West Coast, or the Gulf Coast,” he said. “Yes, even off Florida.”
On other topics, Yannacone had this to say:
“It is time to lift the siege and scatter the hoards of loud-mouthed Luddites who seek to halt the advance of human civilization and who demonize the effort to find and make wise use of our oil and natural gas resources.”
“Millions of barrels of oil, billions of cubic feet of natural gas, thousands of tons of coal, metals and economic minerals support Western civilization. If all that oil and natural gas and coal and metals and economic minerals are not readily available each day on demand, industrial civilization as we know it will cease. Western industrial civilization is built upon cheap oil, gas, food and water.”
“Consumers must realize that oil and natural gas are not ‘free goods.’ There is a price to be paid for consuming non-renewable natural resources. Consumers must pay that part of the cost of finding, producing and distributing the oil and natural gas they demand, which represents the cost of maintaining air clean enough to breathe and potable water for humans and other animals, and the plant systems upon which all animal life depends.”
“It is the lawyers without conscience and the law school professors without principle that brought us Enron and the business failures that followed in the wake of the mergers and acquisitions craze of the ’80s.
“It is the accountants without integrity who have destroyed our confidence in the American free enterprise system and the heart of industrial society — the markets.
“While the vast majority of the American people were unaware and uninformed, those who knew the dirty little secrets kept silent and allowed the barons of big business to hide behind the trappings of power and conceal the fact that they are moral midgets.”
“We have allowed lavish rewards to be heaped upon men and women without honor, integrity, character or principle, who made the elegant edifices of business — the banks, the brokerages and the boardrooms — whitened sepulchers of biblical proportions.
“The independent oil and gas industry was not built by vulture capitalists taking advantage of gullible investors. It was built by men and women of vision who were willing to take great personal risks for the benefit of society, only seeking a reward commensurate with their risk — something for something; not something for nothing!”
“The message that must travel to Washington from every corner of America is that the economy is not just colored bits of paper and people shouting numbers to each other in the caverns of commodity exchanges in Chicago or the canyons of Wall Street.”
On the “New Dark Ages”
“The second coming of the Dark Ages is upon us and the causes are much the same as they were in the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries of the last millennium.
• A lack of scientific knowledge among those with political power.
• A lack of scientific knowledge within the body politic.
• A failure to appreciate the lessons of history.
• Estrangement of the consumer from the origin of the products they consume. Forgetting that milk comes from cows, not the supermarket; forgetting that we must care for the cow, the calf and the bull, deal with their waste as well as our own; forgetting that the food we eat is a renewable resource only if we care for the land from which it comes.
• Refusal to reward those who risk their all to advance civilization. Risk demands reward. Great risk deserves great rewards. Failure to reward investment commensurate with risk fails to promote and encourage innovation directed toward advancing human civilization.”
On National Energy Policy
“Our national energy policy is ‘Cheap energy for us at any price to anyone else.’”
“If the phrase ‘national energy policy’ is not to become the latest oxymoron, like ‘corporate responsibility’ or ‘legal ethics’ or ‘generally accepted accounting principles,’ all of us who provide the support our elected representatives need to do their job, must insist that rational science become the basis for public policy.”
On Land Use Policies and Ideology
“The most pernicious is the idea that all of the public lands exist solely as scenic vistas and their principle use is as the playgrounds of the rich and powerful. The other ideological extreme is that the public lands exist for the benefit of the soulless, stateless multinational conglomerate financial institutions, so that a few people can make a great deal of money without providing any real beneficial use of the public lands.
“We have to reach a balance between these two extreme positions.”
“Today, policy for public land use is created by people who are far removed from the public lands. Historically, the public lands are held in trust in perpetuity for the full benefit use and enjoyment of the people of the United States.”
“The rhetorical gulf that exists today between the organized, tax-exempt special interest groups calling themselves “environmental” organizations and the real environmentalists — the farmers, ranchers and foresters who bring us food, clothing and shelter, and the independent and resourceful earth scientist who search for and find the oil and natural gas that fuels our society and the economic minerals that make industrial society possible — is nothing more than an artificial construct.
“It was created by the ‘robbers barons’ of the late19th century and their modern successors, the pampered princes of privilege, in an effort to keep the continental U.S. west of the 89th meridian as their colonial empire, and the natural resources of America as their personal treasure chest.”