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It’s a good thing for modern, spoiled-rotten, easy-living us that a powerful environmental wacko sector didn’t exist 100 years ago.

Today we’re having trouble getting Congress to OK the extraction of a small ocean of oil from beneath the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, which, as Jonah Goldberg so beautifully shows in his National Review cover piece, is no earthly paradise.

But before we get to Goldberg’s expose, let’s try to imagine what it would have been like if America had been as environmentally daft as it is now on Jan. 10, 1901. That’s when the discovery of a vast oil field in West Texas started the modern Age of Petroleum and put America on the road to superpowerdom.

If environmentalist wackos and their soulmates in Big Media had existed then, they would have scared America’s gullible masses to death with images of the industrial mayhem being committed at a place called Spindletop.

Imagine how horrified viewers back east would have been if network news cameras had showed them a 200-foot tall geyser of oil saturating the Wild West’s holy ground. Or hundreds of noisy oilrigs despoiling the wide horizon.

And the children! They would have been emotionally scarred for life to learn that the clumsy sucking of oil from Mother Earth’s sensitive skin by greedy oil men was hurting innocent communities of prairie dogs and disrupting the eons-old migration routes of armadillo.

Luckily, the oil industry was left alone most of the century to do its dirty work. Before we knew it, we had interstates and three-ton SUVs and oil companies had learned how to sip black gold from miles beneath the earth as daintily as a prom queen drinking skim milk through a straw.

As Goldberg points out in his piece, “Ugh, Wilderness!” none of these improved oil extraction techniques matter to the fevered followers of St. Robert Redford. Nor do they care how ridiculously huge and empty Alaska is (it’s four times larger than than California with the population of Washington, D.C.). Or how much oil is there. Or how little space oil companies would have to use (2,000 acres).

They don’t want any drilling in the “pristine” and “sacred” and “holy” Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Period. It’s a religious thing, says Goldberg, who did something few professional caribou-huggers will ever do – he actually went to the Wildlife Refuge to check it out.

What Goldberg found was not a majestic Eden, not another Yosemite, but a sun-starved, subzero hell. Summers are virtually unbearable for humans, thanks to swarms of fat mosquitoes whose bites can kill caribou calves. And don’t look for any “Nature” specials on the bumble-bee-sized warble fly whose bite is so severe it can cause caribou herds to stampede. Or the nostril fly, whose larvae live in globs in the back of caribous’ throats.

Yes, Goldberg’s piece is one big, often funny argument in favor of exploring Alaska’s North Slope oil fields. But it’s a good antidote to the prevailing false image of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge we’re being fed.

If nothing else, the editor of National Review’s excellent online site should get a journalism medal of honor for daring to travel to an American hellhole that’s obviously unfit for man and caribou.

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