With higher gasoline prices a continuing political concern, it’s high time somebody placed the blame where it belongs — and high time that somebody recognizes that while there are few short-term solutions that can immediately alleviate the cash crunch, it’s worth realizing that today’s long-term solutions will one day make a difference in some future year’s short-term. In other words, even long-term plans do, at some point, bear results that at some point seem immediate.
Today’s problems would be better at the not-inconsequential margins, for example, if drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge had been approved 25 years ago when that state’s Sen. Ted Stevens first brought it up.
Congress and various bureaucracies have messed up this nation’s energy policies for decades — and it is the liberals, which means almost all Democrats, who have been responsible for the mess. One big problem, for instance, is not with the oil supply but with refining capacity. No new refineries have been built in three decades. Why? Because they aren’t profitable. Why? Because environmental regs have skewed the market too much, at least until last year’s Energy Bill (a mix of good policies and horrible ones) provided new incentives for refineries that soon should catalyze investment in new plants.
Meanwhile, home heating and cooling prices are much higher, and the environment itself much worse off, because the eco-lobby so successfully poisoned the atmospherics of the debate about nuclear power plants. But nuclear energy emits no greenhouse gases, so environmentalists who opposed the nukes are also responsible for the burning of fossil fuels that poison the air they so claim to want to clean up.
And so on and so forth, with domestic production of usable energy of many sorts being hobbled by public policy-makers who haven’t seemed to give a hoot about the growing problems associated with American dependence on foreign energy sources.
TODAY, LET’S FOCUS ON THE KEY problem of a lack of domestic production of oil and gas. National public policy in this regard has been horrendously negligent — and the Alaskan refuge drilling ban is only a small part of the problem.
The bigger problem is the overall moratorium on all drilling off U.S. coasts except those in the central and western Gulf of Mexico. Vast supplies of oil and natural gas lie off of Alaska, California, Florida, Virginia, and (I’m told) probably New Jersey and the Carolinas as well. But they lie untapped, forbidden from use by the utterly counterproductive agitation by environmentalists and tourism boosters with overly heightened sensitivities but too little sense (and too little knowledge).
For instance, if it is oil spills or leakage that they worry about, their high-energy-using states risk far less ecological damage if they drill offshore wells and use pipelines than if they bring in the oil on foreign tankers. Tankers are much, much more dangerous, as we all were reminded when the Exxon Valdez fouled a key part of Alaska’s coastline.
From 1990 to 1999, the average annual spillage or seepage from pipelines and oil platforms in North America was 2.06 thousand tons. From tankers, spills alone amounted to 5.3 thousand tons, while “operational discharges” added another 220 tons of fuel into our waters.
These numbers, by the way, come from the National Academy of Sciences, not from some energy lobby.
Meanwhile, Floridians especially are worried that their tourists’ sightlines will somehow be affected by oil rigs. But most drilling is done way offshore, far from any beachgoer’s view. Why ban drilling 150 miles offshore, while risking a major spill from tankers that frequent the state’s ports?
Even worse, Florida’s misplaced squeamishness has gone to such lengths that its powerful congressional delegation has long refused to allow any other states to opt out of the moratorium, for fear of some nonexistent slippery slope that might, years hence, lead to oil derricks within sight of Sanibel Island or Miami Beach, or something like that. But why should a ban on drilling designed to protect Florida keep Virginians from choosing to profit from natural gas produced in federal waters off Virginia shores?
For the cause of American energy independence, which is necessary both for lower prices and for national security reasons, the moratorium on offshore drilling should be narrowed so as to apply only within, say, 50 or 75 miles of anybody’s coastline, and it should allow each state to choose for itself whether to lend its infrastructure to drilling in its adjacent federal waters.
Not only should the moratorium be lifted, but states should actually be given incentives to let drilling commence and/or continue and expand.
That’s where various pieces of pending legislation come in. Senators John Warner (R-Va.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) have a bill that would let states opt out of the moratorium, plus let states get a greater share of the royalties from the drilling. Senators Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) want to allow drilling in a large part of the so-called “Lease Area 181,” which is off the Florida and Alabama coasts. And Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana (D), along with the entire Louisiana delegation (and, except for the Floridians, supported strongly by other Gulf Coast senators, especially Alabama’s Jeff Sessions), are pushing various versions of bills that would go a long way to making safe drilling worth the while of states — and thus give greater incentives for states to opt out of the moratorium and for states already out of the moratorium to be more aggressive about attracting energy businesses.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?