Even in the face of skyrocketing oil prices, some American policy-makers stubbornly refuse to abandon bans on domestic drilling. Rather than tap into the nation’s most bountiful oil reserves, they would prefer to sit on these supplies in hopes that they will, at some point in the future, prove useful. A ready supply of oil is crucial to our nation’s political and economic security. It is imperative our generation exploits as much of America’s natural reserves as possible, before the oil they contain falls into the wrong hands: those of our children.

It is ludicrous that lawmakers would even think of saving our oil reserves for the next generation when we are so clearly suffering today. An emblematic American species is now dying off, faster than the polar bears. It used to be a common sight on the highway: the mighty sport utility vehicle, festooned with mini American flags, golden bull-testicle axle ornaments swaying languorously beneath a myriad of patriotic bumper stickers.

Today, it is becoming prohibitively expensive to fuel these behemoths, leaving millions of men with Napoleon complexes bereft and capsizing their vague aspirations of “off-roading.” Some Americans have been so buffeted by the rising oil prices that they have resorted to bicycles, or, worse, public transportation.

Fortunately, vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin knows this is no way for modern Americans to live. In perhaps the most coherent formulation of her oil policy, Palin told CNBC host Larry Kudlow: “I think those politicians who don’t understand that we need more domestic supply of energy flowing into our hungry markets, you know, they’re living in la-la land. And we’re in a world of hurt if their agenda continues to be to lock up these safe, secure domestic supplies of energy.”

The U.S. government estimates that there is a staggering 18 billion gallons of safe, secure domestic oil in the off-limits portions of the Outer Continental Shelf. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge contains an additional 10 billion gallons. Like Gov. Palin, I am no mathematician, but given that the United States consumes about 7.6 billion barrels of oil every year, I estimate that these reserves should last roughly until we are all either dead or senile.

In response to the common-sense appeal of this policy, left-wing doubters try to muddy the waters by pointing out that any oil from new wells would take at least 10 years to hit the market. While unfortunate, this should neither add nor detract from the case for drilling. The debate today is not about whether we should have started drilling 10 years ago (and of course we should have!). It’s about whether we are willing to ensure that it is our generation that gets to have access to this oil.

We are not being entirely selfish here. In addition to feeding our own “hungry markets,” an expanded drilling project will also prove beneficial for our children. The fewer untapped oil reserves we leave for the next generation, the more incentive they will have to boldly seek out new alternative energy sources. The high price of fuel will also ensure that our descendants learn to economize: to over-inflate the tires on their cars, to turn the lights off when they leave a room, to keep the heat low and wear extra layers in the cold winter months.

Perhaps they will resent us a little. Perhaps they will complain about how we used up America’s oil reserves, or about the debt burden from our wars and bailout packages, or that they never got to see a polar bear because they’re extinct. But these hardships build character, and coddling merely builds a sense of self-entitlement. If we’re not careful, the next generation could grow up to be the sort of spoiled, lackadaisical citizens who would, for instance, give up a careful resource-management policy in favor of their own short-term economic gratification.

At times it can be difficult to resist the urge to pamper our progeny. Young children are incredibly persuasive, extracting from their parents all manner of favors, sweets and toys. In the long term, this uncanny influence can entirely overthrow our rational sense of self-interest. Every time a mother looks into the eyes of her child and says “I want to make the world a better place for you,” our generation loses some of its power.

In order to preserve our precious standard of living and build strong moral fiber in the next generation, we must be willing to look sternly into the wide eyes of our infant children and refuse to indulge their selfish wishes, telling them instead:

“We must drill, baby. We must drill.”

michael zink is a senior in Saybrook College. His column runs on alternate Thursdays.