In yesterday’s post
, I discussed how the (near-) universal protection of property rights made possible “industry at the speed of thought” in the 19th century. Unfortunately, in the 20th century, property rights became gradually and then completely subordinate to a supposedly “higher” concern: government’s protection of “the environment.”
Now, if the human environment is one’s concern, then the way to protect it is through private property rights. Property rights enable each individual to optimize his own environment, developing and preserving as best promotes his well-being. Twentieth- and twenty-first century concern with “the environment” amounted to placing the non-human environment–untouched nature–over property rights and the human environment.
Instead of “industry at the speed of thought,” we have “industry at the speed allowed by environmentalists.” And as the story of the Trans Alaskan Pipeline delay in the 1970s illustrates, that can be a deadly slow speed. The pipeline was a vital source of domestic oil. As I wrote
in the Wall Street Jou
rnal last year: [Read more →]
Consider: the Tide-Water Pipe Line Company … built an “impossible” [crude-oil] pipeline in three months. And it was open for business in May 1879–a mere six months after the company was formed. In today’s American industry, in six months it can be difficult to get permission to lay down mats to teach Yoga on; a state of the art industrial project is inconceivable.
If oil is the lifeblood of a mobile civilization, then oil pipelines are its arteries.
TransCanda’s Keystone XL pipeline, a potential source of highly secure Canadian oil for U.S. refineries all the way to the Texas Gulf Coast, was proposed back in 2008. Despite the fact that pipelines are the safest way of transporting oil, and that this proposed pipeline went to borderline bizarre lengths to prevent the slightest momentary oil leakage, TransCanada endured more than three years of dealing with the “green” regulatory establishment–wrangling with permits, environmental impact statements, secondary environmental impact statements, and the like.
Like thousands of other businesses that deal with this “green” gauntlet, they knew that at any stage a hostile bureaucrat could undo billions in investment, not to mention future Americans’ ability to withstand disruptions in the world oil market.
Then, finally, when the pipeline decision was sent to the highest authority, President Obama, for approval, he casually announced that he would delay a decision by 18 months. [Read more →]