Occasionally my niece, who is 11, will ask me how she can get money to buy presents for people. I usually reply there are three basic ways to accumulate money: earn, sell, and save. Since she is a pre-teen, her resources in this area are pretty much limited to earning babysitting money, selling her old toys at a garage sale, and saving her allowance.

For our thought experiment, let’s focus on a 20-something with a goal of putting $2,000 into the bank as fast as she can. She also has the same three options: earn, sell, and save. Since she is in her 20s, she may have a degree that may help her find a well-paying job. To increase her earned income, she could take on a second job or do piecework on the side. Based on her age and ability, earning money will probably be the fastest way to reach her goal. On the other hand, if she doesn’t have marketable skills, a degree, or experience, she may be limited to taking lower-paying part-time jobs.

She also has the option to sell items she owns. Anything with value (or perceived value) can be put up for sale on an auction site such as eBay. There is no guarantee that her items will sell, but it’s probably easier to sell items than to work. And assuming that she’s selling good stuff and needing to sell it quickly, she may not get full value for her items, and she may choose to spend more money later to recover them. Other than auction sites, there are other venues–consignment stores, pawn shops and yard sales–where she could sell used clothes, books, DVDs, and CDs, but usually at a significantly lower price than what she paid for them.

The last of the three option is to save. This works best when there is a significant amount being spent, but every dollar saved is an extra dollar closer to the goal. Since our imaginary person has a definable and short-term goal, she can opt to cut her spending to the bone. It is cheaper to cook food at home than it is to dine out. Packing brown-bag leftovers is cheaper than buying lunch at work. Reading a book or checking out a movie from the library costs less than going to see that new movie in the theater. She could even go as far as adjusting her air conditioner or heater to a more energy-saving setting, but savings from utility bills could take a while to appear, so this strategy might be better suited to a long-term savings goal. But it’s still an option.

The options of earn, sell, and save pretty much cover the ways our hypothetical woman could reach her goal of putting $2,000 in the bank. Since she has a definite goal in mind, it would be both silly and inefficient if she decided to eliminate one or two of these options. If she were serious about reaching her goal as quickly as possible, why would she purposely postpone her goal by limiting her savings options? If she really wanted to reach the goal as fast as she could, she would take advantage of all the opportunities open to her to earn, sell, and save money.

Have you noticed that I always wrote it as “earn, sell, and save” rather than listing them as “earn, sell, or save”? I did that on purpose because I am including all the options that work toward this goal, rather than excluding options. That is what I mean by thinking inclusively rather than exclusively. When there are multiple ways to reach a goal, it behooves us to include them all rather than arbitrarily excluding some.

So how does this apply to the current energy crunch?

We need energy–indeed, we need massive amounts to sustain our current way of life. We could easily reduce the energy we consume if we were willing to revert to a 1908 lifestyle instead of a 2008 one. The Model T was first sold in 1908, but since cars are evil polluting beasts from hell–or so environmentalists tell us–we’d have to do without cars. We’d also have to do without bras and zippers, since both were invented in 1913. Oh, the horror! But frankly, I’d rather not live an Amish lifestyle. I like the convenience of central heating and air, and modern dentistry is a blessing. The mass production and modern farming techniques that clothe and feed the world’s billions require an unbelievable amount of energy to maintain, and to fuel our energy demand, we should think inclusively rather than exclusively.

I’ve been listening to the people who are screaming for a change in our energy usage, and I have noticed that they almost always think exclusively. They don’t want us to drill for oil or natural gas. They don’t want us to dig for coal. They don’t want us to build nuclear power plants. They don’t want us to build dams for hydroelectric power. They don’t even want us to build wind farms. The only thing left is solar energy, but the same BANANA[1] attitude that stops us from drilling in the desolate arctic wasteland known as ANWR will stop us from dedicating the many square miles of desolate southwest desert that we’d need to really get solar energy going.

I recently saw a commercial by T. Boone Pickens who said that our current energy state is “one emergency we can’t drill our way out of.” His plan calls for using wind energy, natural gas, and biofuels to make the U.S. energy independent. But there is no mention on his page about the other options–solar, nuclear, and hydroelectric power. Why is Pickens being exclusive rather than inclusive when it comes to seeking out and utilizing energy sources? I hear people talk about solar and wind power as being avenues worth pursuing, but they nearly always exclude oil, and they shudder at the very thought of nuclear power. Why exclude some of these possible energy sources when we need all the energy we can get?

When I hear or read “We can’t drill our way out of this problem,” I have a strong reason to believe that person has identified certain energy sources as “good” or “bad”. I don’t see it that way; to me, they are all just energy sources. As I see it, every drop of oil we drill here in the U.S. is one drop we don’t have to import. Likewise, every drop of oil we don’t need to use because of natural gas, solar, hydroelectric, nuclear, coal, or wind power is also one drop we don’t have to import. It’s a win-win situation, so why not get all the energy we can from all the sources we can?

Let’s think inclusively about energy, rather than being exclusive. Let’s drill for oil and natural gas AND dig for coal AND build nuclear power plants AND build hydroelectric dams AND build wind farms AND build solar arrays AND conserve where it makes sense AND develop new energy sources AND invent more efficient uses of our energy. Now that’s a worthwhile goal I could get behind.

[1] BANANA — Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything

If I were to walk up to you and take your wallet at gunpoint, that would be stealing. If I were to take your things with the mere threat of violence, that would be stealing. If I forced you to sell your $100 item to me for only $10, that would also be stealing. None of these examples of theft should be all that hard to identify, but the government doesn’t play by the same rules you and I do.

The right of eminent domain allows the government to take your property if there is a pressing public need for it. If the government is building a new highway, it can force the landowners along the route to sell, but it must pay fair market value for the land. This holds true for creating or expanding airports, public transportation networks, or any other valid public use. A strip of land near my home is owned by the city, and nothing can be built on it since the city needs full access to this land to work on the utility pipes that lie buried underneath it. The Fifth Amendment outlines the government’s power of eminent domain: “nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” But the government doesn’t always pay much attention to the Constitution.

In 1996, then-President Clinton staged a photo op in Arizona as he signed an executive order to establish the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. He mouthed some words about the monument being necessary to protect the cryptobiotic crust and other buzzwords by the environmental left. Never mind that the EPA didn’t see any need for this land to be set off-limits by the government. So why did this land grab happen? I can see two reasons: first, grabbing this land allowed Clinton to boost his popularity with environmental leftists while simultaneously sticking it to Utah – the only state where President Clinton had finished third in the 1992 Presidential election. The second reason is more conspiratorial. At the last minute, the Kaiparowits Plateau was included as part of the Monument. There is nothing on the plateau that warrants its being added, but it effectively blocked a multi-year deal to extract the low-sulfur coal beneath that plateau. Kaiparowits is the only known U.S.-based location where this low-sulfur, low-polluting coal can be found. The only other known location is in Indonesia and is owned by the Lippo Group, run by the Riady family – the same family implicated in the Chinese money scandals during President Clinton’s terms in office. Ignoring the possibly conspiratorial nature of this land grab, however, the order by President Clinton effectively stole the land and its use from the state of Utah. The profits from the sale of coal would have funded Utah’s already drastically underfunded public schools.

“Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool,” said Clinton presidential aide Paul Begala. Not really. With a stroke of the pen, President Clinton stole the land from Utah.

The Environmental Protection Agency is also guilty of stealing from the American people. Rather than just taking the land outright, the EPA will simply deny landowners the full use of their land. People have been denied the use of their property because standing water is somewhere on the land, and the EPA swoops in and declares it a wetland. Once a piece of property is declared a wetland, the landowner is not allowed to drain the land or build anything there. Stroke of some bureaucrat’s pen, and the owner loses control of his land without “just compensation.” The farmers in the Klamath basin in Oregon have seen this theft in action. In 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt declared that the inhabitants of the Klamath basin would be guaranteed their water rights “forever,” but the promise of a President doesn’t matter as far as the EPA is concerned. EPA bureaucrats decided the needs of the endangered bottom-feeding suckerfish were more important than the rights of the Klamath farmers, so they descended on the Klamath basin and shut off the farmers’ water supply, diverting it to keep the rivers full and the suckerfish happy. But why does a river need to be kept running high when the “endangered” fish is a bottom-feeder? However, questions like this don’t matter when the greater good of protecting a fish is at stake. Do you imagine the EPA was in the least concerned about the endangered livelihood of the Klamath farmers? The EPA has shown itself over and over again to have far more interest in the welfare of a frog or a fish over a human being. Call me a species-ist, but I am more concerned with the welfare of my fellow humans over some bird, amphibian or insect.

North of Oregon is the beautiful state of Washington, where again we see governmental theft in action. King County is the largest county in Washington, incorporating the major metropolis of Seattle and more rural areas to the east of Lake Washington. King County Executive Ron Sims has proposed a new property plan, termed “65-10″ in some circles. Basically, the proposal would mandate that land owners in rural King County must leave 65% of their property untouched and undeveloped. 35% of the property could be cleared, but only 10% could be built on. If Executive Sims has his way, over half of the county’s rural acreage will be mandated by law to lie perpetually fallow. Do you think King County will compensate the owners for 65% of the total value of their land? Not bloody likely. This proposed governmental theft is being justified by the environmentalists living in urban Seattle because of the need to keep the watershed in place. It’s telling that these urban greenies are targeting only the areas where they do not live. Jill Boccla recently asked in a community forum, “Are you managing my property for me, or are you managing my land for you?” Of course King County sees the property as being its own to manage, rather than belonging to the people whose names are on the land titles, but this is pretty much the way bureaucrats always see private property. Last year California was ravaged by intense forest fires, fueled by fallen trees that had lain unharvested because the environmentalist bureaucrats felt it was better to let the forests lie untouched rather than cleaning out debris. When the fires came – and the fires always do come – the abundance of dry fuel ensured the fires would rage out of control for a long time. This King County plan would essentially do the same in Washington, since people would be kept from clearing fallen trees off their own property.

“Just compensation” would mean paying the King County landowners at least 65% of the value of their property, since the proposed law would effectively take away their rights of ownership. “Just compensation” would be paying the farmers in the Klamath basin for their lost livelihoods, or better yet, letting them keep their promised water. “Just compensation” would be paying the state of Utah for the billions of dollars it lost to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. But though it would be called stealing if it were done by private citizens, this is just another case of “government business.”