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Commentary: Your gas money for a flat screen?

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  • Beck supports off-shore oil drilling even if U.S. doesn't benefit for years
  • Environmental risks of drilling are lower than we've been led to believe, he says
  • Beck says speculators aren't contributing to high oil prices
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By Glenn Beck
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Editor's note: Glenn Beck is on CNN Headline News nightly at 7 and 9 ET and also hosts a conservative national radio talk show.

Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck says the extra money the average U.S. household has spent on gas since last year could buy almost two new TVs.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- 1.733.

This number should put our skyrocketing gas prices into perspective. To explain: In January 2007, gas prices were at a measly $2.17 a gallon. Since then they've skyrocketed to more than $4.

Considering the average amount of gas used per household, the rise has cost us approximately $1,690. With the average 42-inch plasma screen going for $975, just the extra cash you've forked over for gas in the last year and a half could have bought you 1.733 plasma TVs. And that number just keeps rising.

Of course, there are a lot more serious issues than the "flat screen factor." Gas prices have changed families who were once able to save a little into families breaking even. Families who used to break even now run up credit cards. Families who ran up credit cards now dodge calls from creditors. And families who dodged calls from creditors are now families in full-fledged financial crisis. (Like Ed McMahon, I've heard.)

So, the question is: What do we do?

President Bush and many Republicans argue that increasing domestic production of oil is the right strategy.

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has become a recent convert to this philosophy as well; at least as far as offshore drilling is concerned. (His lack of support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [ANWR] is a distinction I can't understand. If we can drill safely without environmental harm under thousands of feet of water, why not on a small patch of ice in the middle of thousands of desolate square miles?)

Those who disagree with drilling here usually cite one of a few standard arguments:

"It's not going to help for another 10 years!"

Here's the thing. America is a long-term plan for me. I don't know where these people plan to be in 10 years, but I plan to be here. This is, of course, the same argument heard around President Clinton's veto of ANWR drilling in 1995. Among other things, if we had started drilling ANWR then, oil would be already flowing. At its peak, ANWR could supply 1.45 million barrels per day, enough to tell Hugo Chavez and all his Venezuelan oil to shove it (with a little change left over).

Of course, Clinton didn't have Chavez to deal with back then. If only he were thinking 10 years into the future.

"We can't drill ourselves out of this problem!"

Maybe not solely, or forever, but it sure can help. With new technology, who knows what we can do over time?

The government estimates that the outer continental shelf alone has 76 billion barrels of oil that are recoverable, and that's just with today's technology.

To put that number into perspective, it's equal to every barrel of oil that we'd import from everywhere outside of North America for 31 years at our current pace. But instead of developing these resources, we throw up endless roadblocks.

If you don't think that pumping more of our own oil would affect prices, ask yourself what would happen if we did the opposite. What if we announced today that we were turning all of our existing pumps off?

"What about the environment?"

This may surprise those who think I'm the pre-eminent murderer of the Earth, but the only real argument against owning our own oil destiny is an environmental one.

Under this theory: High gas prices equal less gas usage, which equals a saved planet. Thomas Friedman, in a recent column, laid it out in an honest fashion: "Now that [gas] is $4 a gallon, the government should at least keep it there, since it is really having the right effect."

He went on to describe Chrysler's promotion that guarantees cheaper gas as "the moral equivalent of tobacco companies offering discounted cigarettes to teenagers." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, apparently agrees, saying that coal and oil are making us sick along with "ruining our country" and "ruining our world."

If you believe such nonsense, then it's perfectly rational to ignore our ample energy resources. (It's not rational to combine that with complaints about high gas prices, sorry Harry Reid.)

For the rest of us, while visions of the Exxon Valdez may dance through your head, the National Academy of Sciences found that the offshore industry is among the safest industrial activities in the United States.

And please, next time you hear someone complaining about environmental risks of drilling at home, remember this from a 2003 speech from the director of the US Minerals Management Services: "Imports present an environmental risk of spills about 13 times greater than domestic production" and "natural seeps account for 150-175 times more oil in the ocean than outer continental shelf oil and gas operations."

NATURAL SEEPS? Now we know who the real polluter is -- that evil wench -- Mother Nature.

"It's all the speculators"

Speculation has a place in all markets, but as usual our lawmakers and much of the media are focused on the wrong thing. Speculators don't make money when the markets go up, they make it when they are right. The proper question to ask isn't, "How do we stop the speculators?" It is, "What are the speculators speculating about?"

They are trying to predict oil prices in a world they know will have increased demand, with the explosive growth in developing economies like China and India and where the No. 1 oil consumer refuses to take drilling seriously. Which way would you bet oil prices were going?

Think what would happen if our government acted decisively and let the world know that we will fully develop our own energy resources

From oil drilling, to coal to liquids, to shale, to new refineries, to nuclear power, to alternative fuels. What if nothing were off the table and the hurdles were removed?

What if we let the world know that we will not sit idly by and let two-faced friends and stone-faced enemies determine the lifeblood of our civilization?

What if we demonstrated that with real action instead of empty words?

I'd like to find out. It's time for a new flat screen.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

All About Arctic National Wildlife RefugeOil PricesOil Production and Refining

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