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'Let's Avoid More Energy Hysteria'

June 18, 1987

Working as a geologist in petroleum exploration since 1981 has required that I come to terms with a personal dilemma. My deep respect for environmental concerns is now complicated by some insight into the increasing difficulty, expense, and risk of searching for new petroleum reserves. From this perspective, I appreciated the comments of Curtiss on the energy policy expressed by the Reagan Administration and Interior Secretary Hodel.

There are many ways to approach the issue of national energy security. I find it tragic that as a nation we are slipping into an attitude where military force (direct or indirect) in the Middle East is becoming more expedient than a disciplined exploration, conservation, and alternative development effort at home. To ignore the approaching decline of easily available domestic and global oil reserves is to eventually deny ourselves a choice.

Do we begin to solve our problems now with changes in behavior (life style) and technology or do we ultimately spend young lives in the fight for our piece of the pie?

Curtiss' basic idea of keeping our oil resources "in the bank" during the current global oil surplus has merit. A long-term view of resource management is important. However, the search for oil does not begin with moving a drilling rig on location. Exploration is a long, expensive and often unsuccessful process that does not proceed without some promise of economic reward to the one taking the risks. It is here that his bathtub analogy is weak. Oil reserves are not discovered and produced at will, like turning on a faucet.

Americans are justified in jealously guarding the natural beauty and non-energy resources of our coastlines and wilderness areas. But we, especially as Californians, should also take a hard look at our unrivaled thirst for products like gasoline. If we insist on maintaining the personal mobility made possible by our automobiles in the future, our environmental causes will be lost by default. A price will be paid for whatever action we take. The worst price of all may be for the actions we don't take.

STEPHEN T. PHILLIPS

Placentia

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