If the current imbroglio over rising gas prices weren’t so serious in its consequences for average Americans, it would be almost comic to watch this all unfold. Watching the Congress react to this week’s “crisis” is nearly laughable.
As we laid out in this space yesterday, there are some very clear and logical reasons for the current high gas prices we now labor under. When all is stripped away, insufficient supply to meet escalating demand emerges as a key factor. So what has Congress done? In the last few days, a number of members of Congress and Senators have rushed to the microphone to offer their solutions.
In his response to the President’s Saturday Radio Address, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) urged every solution except tapping the Outer Continental Shelf off his home state. Fidel Castro can do it but we can’t. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) — reports the National Journal’s Congress Daily — plans to introduce a bill that will require energy market traders who trade electronically to keep records and provide them to federal officials if requested. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) will reportedly re-introduce a bill that would make price gouging a federal crime. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is introducing a bill that would waive the federal gas tax for 60 days. The House Agriculture Committee has scheduled a hearing for this week on futures markets and gas prices.
Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) are planning on introducing a bill that will levy a 50% excise tax on any oil selling for more than $50 a barrel, reports the WaPo. Nevermind that our companies only control 13% of the oil supply, and that we pay a global price for oil. Will they levy this fee on Hugo Chavez? Vladimir Putin? Ah yes, the long arm of Congress….
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says, “Democrats have a commonsense plan to help bring down skyrocketing gas prices by cracking down on price gouging, rolling back the billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, tax breaks and royalty relief given to big oil and gas companies, and increasing production of alternative fuels.”
OK — how’s that going….?
So here’s the lunacy of it all: According to the Minerals Management Service (MMS) at the US Department of Interior — a pretty well-respected group — there are 85.9 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Outer Continental Shelf. These are conservative estimates. Our experience in the Gulf of Mexico, in fact, reveals that the more we search for oil and gas, the more we find. Initial estimates of reserves in the Gulf were off by a factor of 10. If we tapped this oil in the OCS, we could meet the entire current US consumption of oil for a full 11 years without a drop of foreign oil. The natural gas could heat 210 million homes for 30 years. ANWR oil reserves are equal to all of Texas’ on-shore output.
As many commenters here and elsewhere have noted, supply and conservation are not mutually exclusive. In fact, quite the opposite. We need to conserve (manufacturers lead the way), we need to find new sources, too. But we absolutely need to be tapping these enormous reserves of energy. And, it all can be done in an environmentally-sensitive way.
And so we sit back and watch the Washington parlor game of finger pointing and misplaced blame. While they scurry about taxing this one and that one, and mandating electronic filing of whatever and railing against price gouging (talk about a safe issue — anybody in favor of price gouging?), we sit atop this huge reserve of oil and gas. We remain the only nation in the world that limits access to its own natural resources. Do you think our competitors would let themselves get in this pickle? They must just look at us and laugh.
We should note that one rational voice in all of this came Tuesday from Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), Chair of the House Resources Committee. Said Pombo, “Time and again, [we] have warned that America would end up at the mercy of OPEC if we didn’t put Americans to work producing more of our own energy. We were right”, he says, “As the price at the pump illustrates, again.”
The solution is right here if we want it. Click here to tell your elected representatives to stop with the speeches and turn on the spigot.
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