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Environment

Why Oh Why Are People So Obsessed with Drilling?

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Economist Daniel Gross has a great column in Newsweek about why offshore drilling has become so popular, despite the fact that it's about as likely to drop gas prices and decrease foreign oil dependence as a group prayer session. His theories on drilling's exponential rise—particularly compared to the gas tax's crash and burn—include the following:

• Vast right-wing conspiracy: The gas-tax holiday was derided by the economic-policy wing of the Republican Party. By contrast, the Republican noise machine—the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Washington think tanks, talk- radio blowhards, the dwindling core of Capitol Hill Republicans—has marched in impressive message lock step for drilling.

• Screw the foreigners: Call it national security, or call it chauvinism, but drilling for domestic oil sets up a zero-sum game. Every barrel of oil produced here is one we don't have to buy from our long and growing list of enemies: Venezuela, Iran and Russia. By contrast, a gas-tax holiday just offers more opportunities to enrich Hugo Chávez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

• Mytho-historical: Wildcatting for oil conjures up legendary fortunes (Rockefeller, Getty, Hughes) and feeds into romanticized notions of how the nation was built by pioneers who tapped into the natural bounty of this resource-rich land. Think John Wayne and "There Will Be Blood." Gas-tax holidays conjure up images of accountants. Think David Schwimmer.

Valid theories all—though personally, we're partial to this one:

• Freudian: The language and imagery surrounding the issue—drills penetrating the earth's crust in search of gushers—tap into deep-seated subconscious desires. A gas-tax holiday? Not so much.

When in doubt, blame the phallus!

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