Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tim Walberg's Fantasy World



The Politico.com ran a story a few days ago that's interesting in the context of the debate over offshore drilling for oil. Without commenting on the merits of drilling offshore, they noted that a number of proponents of drilling like to make the claim that facilities in the Gulf of Mexico went through Hurricanes Katrina and Rita without any damage and without "one drop of oil spilt," according to Senator Trent Lott (R-MS).

So, if the oil rigs could survive hurricanes without any environmental damage, obviously offshore drilling is completely safe, and environmentalists who oppose it are being unreasonable.

The problem with these assertions? Well, they're wrong. As the Politico explains:
The U.S. Minerals Management Service, however, did a study of the damage Katrina and Rita did to offshore oil wells and came to a different conclusion. It found that the two storms caused a combined 124 spills with a volume of 17,700 barrels—or roughly 750,000 gallons. That's no Exxon Valdez -- in fact, the MMS had kind words for the rigs' performances -- but it's not nothing either.
The article also cites pieces by CBS News and Media Matters which debunk the claim.

Among the proponents of drilling that the Politico mentions? Congressman Tim Walberg:
Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) said on Friday that the Gulf rigs went "through Katrina with no spills -- with derricks being washed up on shore and yet the environment has not been hurt and we've been benefited by it."
(Emphasis added.)

The problem here isn't the policy Walberg supports. There are a lot of reasons not to support his oil-company-give-away policy, but in this case, 750,000 gallons of oil spilled during Katrina and Rita aren't going to convince many voters.

Instead, the problem is what the story indicates about Tim Walberg as a person and as a politician. He's basing his policies and his rhetoric on what he wishes was true, not based on the actual facts. Rather than taking positions based on what's happening, he's following his rigid ideology and creating for himself a world that fits it. His hard line, conservative positions make perfect sense in the fantasy world he's constructed.

Offshore drilling is a lot easier to support if you pretend that there's no environmental risk and if you pretend the Chinese are drilling for oil off the coast of Florida.

Continuing the war in Iraq is a lot easier if you pretend that Iraq is as safe as Detroit.

Going to war to begin with makes more sense if you pretend that Iraq was behind September 11.

Environmental issues are a lot easier if you pretend that global climate change isn't real.

Unfortunately, Tim Walberg's facts don't quite match the ones the rest of us have to live with.

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