Slick talk


The Bush administration's proposal to drill for oil and gas off the Maryland coast, 15 miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, disturbs us -- not merely for the environmental impact on the bay, but also for the shortsightedness it represents.

The proposal, which calls for drilling up and down most of the East Coast, is only one piece of the administration's legislative agenda, which also includes passage of a new federal highway bill. Off-shore drilling and an improved road system are ostensibly answers to the problems of foreign oil dependency, changing demographics and a crumbling physical infrastructure. But highway construction and oil production are a lot like prisons: Supply never keeps pace with demand. Moreover, increasing off-shore drilling and rolling more asphalt over the American landscape can only lead to more pollution, more traffic and more rapid deterioration of the fragile ozone layer.

Instead of battling over how extensively to expand the old, failed policies, Congress and the administration should be exploring alternative energy sources, hammering out conservation measures, particularly more stringent standards for fuel efficiency, and developing a clean, efficient system of mass transportation.

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