Business News

Subsidizing Barbarism

by Patrick Flanagan

Our dependence on foreign oil is now a matter of choice, as we have the resources, means and technology to free ourselves - and stop supporting countries with savage practices. A recent news headline read, "Saudi Court Condemns Editor to 600 Lashes, With Breaks."

Raif Badawi

It seems that Saudi Arabian journalist Raif Badawi has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for the crime of "insulting Islam" (he committed the Islamic apostasy of saying that "Muslims, Jews, Christians and atheists are all equal). Since a lash is done with a horse whip - you stand with your face to the wall and your back is whipped - and because no one could survive 600 lashings given in one beating, the sentence will be administered 150 lashes at a time, with intervening hospital visits for recovery in between.

And Saudi Arabia is certainly not the only country in that neck of the woods generating news headlines that might make you shudder with disbelief. In Pakistan, a Christian woman now awaits execution. Her crime? Drinking from a "Muslim" water well on a hot day. Not so long ago, in Iran, it was reported that a 13-year-old girl was to be stoned to death - for having found out that she was pregnant by her 15-year-old brother. Oh, and don't leave out the practice of honor killings, which occur with regularity in certain parts of the Middle East, targeting women whose actions - actual or suspected - violate the honor of their family.

Such reports coming out of Iran, Saudi Arabia or so many of the Sharia Law Islamic countries of the Middle East are not one-off events.

The adherence to such barbaric practices such as lashes, stoning, honor killings and beheadings occur in these countries as a matter of regular course.

Now, on a seemingly unrelated note, another recent headline stated, "Montana Oilmen Baffled by Bay Area Opposition to Keystone."

It seems that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (as have many environmental groups from California to Maine) has adopted a resolution condemning the Keystone pipeline project, on the basis that delivery of the crude produced from Alberta's oil sands will worsen global warming. Apparently they cannot understand that the Keystone pipeline does not determine whether the oil will be produced - it most certainly will - but simply whether that oil is used here in America, or alternatively pipelined over to Vancouver, and then put into tankers for shipment to, and use in, China (but that would be a subject for another discussion. Sigh).

And then there is fracking. Or better yet, the hysteria against fracking. (By the way, that hysteria is ridiculous. Wells have been hydraulically fracked for nearly 70 years. And as engineering processes go, there is nothing particularly exotic or complex about it. If you understand the mechanics of the wellbore, the sub-strata geology encountered and, finally, hydraulics involved in breaking rocks, you would realize that concerns regarding polluting the fresh water drinking supply make no more sense than arguing that the earth is flat. Those who are crying out most loudly against hydraulic fracturing are doing so in ignorance - not a good thing to base a national energy policy on.)

Then something larger hit me. Ever since the OPEC oil embargo back in October 1973, the rallying cry coming out of Washington has been for "energy independence." Think what that would actually mean. We would be able to once again have control of our energy future. We would not be subject to the whims and rantings of the tin-pot dictators or nut-jobs that might be running any one of these oil rich countries, upon which we have become so dependent.

Why do we insist on remaining beholden? With recent discoveries and improved extraction technology, we here in North America have it within our reach to become completely independent of these repressive regimes in short order. Has the scourge of political correctness and ignorance now grown into a millstone around our necks?

Throw off the millstone and open your eyes. Without the need for their oil, the Middle East would be worth little more than the sand it sits on. Our dependence on Middle Eastern oil is now a matter of choice. We have the resources, means and technology to free ourselves.

Think about this for a moment - the terrorism of the last several years, the attacks of 9/11, two wars fought, trillions of dollars spent, and thousands of casualties have revolved around fighting an enemy - al Qaeda - that came into being primarily because of western presence in the Middle East. In fact, the rallying cry of the entire al Qaeda movement has been - to state it simply - "get out of our sandbox!" We should accommodate them on that.

Now I'm not so naïve to believe that America can just fold up its tent and go home. We can't, and I know that we won't. But we damn sure can change the nature of our involvement over there, and a good start would be to arrange our affairs such that we are no longer dependent on their oil for our domestic needs. There is just no reason for us to be held hostage any longer, and we would be foolish to allow it to continue.

Do you support human rights? Good. Here's where our national interest in energy independence and a concern for human rights intersect. Every BTU of energy that we block from being produced domestically results in that energy being imported from the Middle East. And that contributes to ever-growing bank accounts for those countries that practice, condone and conduct the beatings, beheadings, honor killings and stonings. Domestic energy independence would remove a pillar of financial support that our money affords to those countries that host policies that are hostile to our values and sensibilities. Bluntly - and assuming that we have a moral compass and are willing to walk the walk as well as talk the talk - energy independence would let Americans stop subsidizing the governments of these countries that practice the horror of Sharia law. Want to try and change the world for the better? Then stop the subsidies now.

Listen, every country and every people have the right to live and govern as they see fit. And if the proponents of Sharia law want to live in the modern 4th century, more power to them. But we don't have to help. Think about that next time you hear a well-meaning but misguided rant against the Keystone pipeline, hydraulic fracturing, or anything else that we can do here in America to become the energy independent nation that we should be.

Bo Billeaud has been president and chief investment officer of Lafayette-based Billeaud Capital Management, a money management firm, for the past 27 years. Contact him at [email protected].