What if John McCain had become president? That is an intriguing question to ponder over copious beer, brandy, and wine. Sure there would have been more diamonds on the First Lady and that would have been good for diamond sales, which now are in a slump. Maybe six big cars would still be a symbol of success (I think that is how many he has) and platinum would be booming. Palin would be powerful and the Pebble Mine would be accelerating. I doubt anything would be different in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, or North Korea.
But here is one mining story where we can be certain things would be different if McCain were President. I refer to the report on McCain’s support for a copper mine in Arizona, and Obama’s NO. I quote from the linked report:
The Obama administration yesterday said it could not endorse legislation that would make way for a copper mine in an Arizona national forest, reversing the Bush administration’s support of the bill and outraging its Republican sponsors in the Senate. Forest Service Deputy Chief Joel Holtrop told the Senate Public Lands and Forests Subcommittee that the administration has serious concerns about S. 409, a proposed land swap which would allow Resolution Copper to build a mine on a piece of Arizona’s Tonto National Forest in exchange for private lands.
Support for and opposition to the mine is from the usual channels. The local Indians claim the land is holy–or at least has religious significance (not sure what the difference is). Some Greens want the copper for electric cars and windmills, others decry the loss of aesthetic cliffs. Again to quote:
The proposed mine could meet up to one-fifth of the nation’s copper demand, Kyl said. Copper, he noted, is an important raw material in "green" technologies — a hybrid car requires twice as much copper as a conventional autos and a single wind turbine requires one ton.
I am currently involved in a study of some obscure aspect of a large copper mine in Chile. They reckon that with a bit of umph they could supply the world’s copper. Which raises the question: Should the US stop mining minerals that can easily be imported from other countries? Does every country need its own copper mine, uranium mine, and diamond mine? Should some countries simply be prepared to outsource mining as we outsource the making of shoes, toys, and TVs?
The easy answer is to let the market decide. But the market can lead to distortions. The tragedy of the commons arises. Do we need uranium mines in Virginia, even if the free market would make such mines profitable? Do we need to resuscitate uranium mining in Colorado when there is so much uranium in Namibia, Canada, and Australia? Maybe we should view the cornucopia of copper and uranium in other places where they are happy to have mines as a blessing that includes low prices and a protected environment?
True some miners won’t have jobs. But then there will be fewer small mines that need to be reclaimed when economic conditions turn and the foreign owners of the mines flee leaving the US taxpayer to clean up. Which as a downside means there will be fewer economic stimulus opportunities for environmental engineers to work cleaning up the old, abandoned mines. We would be reduced to spending economic stimulus money as the French do: rehabilitating old churches for tourists.
Obviously I do not have the answer to these questions. But McCain does and so, apparently does Obama. That is probably why they are presidential material and I am a mere blogger speculating about what might have been and what may be. Enjoy.