Cranky and Churlish?

by Jonah Goldberg

There’s much that I agree with in Conrad Black’s column — and some that I disagree with. But let me just focus on one thing. He writes

Contrary to the famous advice of Franklin D. Roosevelt in his State of the Union message in 1941 — “We must always be wary of those who with sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal would preach the ‘ism’ of appeasement” — the United States is now effectively an appeasement power. Because it is so helplessly dependent on imported oil from unfriendly places (unlike Canada), and the American public is so cranky and churlish about paying what other countries pay for imported petroleum products, and the political class of both parties for 40 years has been so hopelessly feeble about explaining the problem and trying to persuade the country to face up to it, the U.S. tolerates the subsidization of Islamic extremism by Saudis and seems to be afraid to do anything to prevent the nuclear militarization of Iran.

I don’t think this is right. America pays the same thing for “imported petroleum products” as pretty much everybody else. Petroleum, no matter its region of origin, is a commodity and is sold on a global market. Perhaps our crankiness and churlishness is more directly — and properly — aimed at the notion that the federal government should tax petroleum products at rates comparable to Europe?

I would very much like to wean ourselves of Middle Eastern oil, but that is easier said than done given the incredibly low marginal costs of extracting Saudi Arabian oil and the high marginal costs of extracting American oil. Still, at $101 a barrel there’s plenty of room for Americans to produce more of our own oil the way Canada does. And given our massive supplies of natural gas, there’s much to be said for moving as much of our fuel consumption in that direction as possible. One thing we do not need is to reduce the cranky and churlish reluctance of the American people to be taxed more. What we do need to do is reduce the cranky and churlish reluctance of the Democratic party to exploit our own natural resources.

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