In the Senate: Big Oil, Bad Theater

By March 15, 2006Energy

It seems that time and again all the bad theater in Washington is happening in the US Senate. From Justice Alito to the ports imbroglio, it seems that these folks have taken pandering to new heights.

Tuesday was another doozy. They lined up a bunch of executives from “Big Oil” (Pandering Lesson One: Remember to put “big” before anything you want to demonize) to brow beat them about their (cue ominous music) profits. (Pandering Lesson #2: remember that “profits” is always a dirty word. The more you have, the worse you are.)

At issue — ostensibly, but not really — is a bill that would limit oil company mergers, make it a crime to manipulate gas prices by limiting supply, and allow the US to sue OPEC (Still with us? The US could sue an international body — this oughta make the WTO jump for joy) if they limit production of oil and natural gas.

Let’s review the bidding: The oil companies represented there today account for a measly 13% — that’s right — thirteen percent — of the world’s oil output. The real behemoths are the state-owned firms in Russia, China and Venezuela, among others. Oil prices are set on a world market, not a local market like natural gas. So preventing US companies from getting as large as their competition doesn’t make all that much sense. But don’t get bogged down in the facts. This is theater, remember?

Second, if there’s anyone who’s manipulating prices by limiting supply, it’s the lefty enviros. Why doesn’t the Senate call up a panel of enviros? They’ve limited nuclear, coal, and access to our own oil and gas reserves for 30 years, with impunity. Let’s hear what they have to say for themselves. Why have they put us in this hole, and driven up prices for us all? Supply stays constant, demand goes up, price goes up. What’s their plan? Ditto on the idea of restraining the production of oil and natural gas. Why worry about OPEC when we’ve got the radical enviro movement doing the limiting of production dirty work for them?

So while it’s easy — and maybe fun — for US Senators to feign outrage at a panel of oil company execs, they ought to focus on the real problem and lift the federal moratorium on exploration of the Outer Continental Shelf, unleash the resources in ANWR and move to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, move to make us more competitive, not less. We ought not be the only country that limits access to its own natural resources. OPEC must be laughing at us.

Now that the TV cameras have stopped rolling, maybe the Senate can get down to the serious business of solving our energy crisis. Here’s a link to our press release, calling this charade exactly what it was.