MEDIOCRITY REIGNS SUPREME: CONGRESSIONAL HOT AIR
SUBSTITUTES FOR U.S. ENERGY POLICY
By Paul K. Driessen
Two hundred years later, U.S. Senator Roman Hruska argued:
Fortunately, Congress rejected Hruska’s appeal for mediocrity on the U.S. Supreme Court. Unfortunately, ongoing “debates” on energy policy suggest that mediocre people are over-represented in today’s U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, and good judgment has been supplanted by opinion and demagoguery.
U.S. crude oil output has declined 43% since 1985, as demand increased by 31% – and imports have skyrocketed to 60% of the oil we use (compared to 28% just prior to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo). Meanwhile, China and India’s booming economies have intensified global demand for oil.
As if that weren’t enough to send prices into the stratosphere, political unrest and muscle-flexing in Iran, Iraq, Chad, Nigeria, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Russia have generated jitters and further price hikes. Additional upward pressure on gasoline prices results from air pollution laws that mandate 18 expensive specialized gasoline blends for individual markets, highly subsidized and hard-to-transport ethanol for broader markets, and a 54-cent tariff on imported ethanol.
Not surprisingly, crude oil is now over $70 a barrel, and gasoline hit a national average of $2.90 per gallon in April, 2006.
Congressional actions have likewise helped make clean-burning natural gas the fuel of choice for numerous applications. U.S. utilities use 41% more of it than just a decade ago, and 87% of all generating plants coming online in the next 5 years will burn gas – including plants that provide essential backup electricity for unreliable wind turbines that Congress and state legislatures promote, subsidize or even mandate. Natural gas is also used to make fertilizer to grow corn and other crops, and burned to convert various crops into ethanol and bio-diesel.
So demand is up, while production has stagnated, and natural gas prices have soared from $2 in the 1990s to nearly $9 per thousand cubic feet today.
Winter heating bills soared 25% during the relatively warm Winter of 2005-2006, and fertilizer prices rose nearly 50% in a year’s time. Facing sharply higher costs for heating, lighting and transportation, businesses and public schools are desperately trying to control other costs, without laying off more workers. The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that more than 3.1 million high-wage manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2000; many have moved overseas, where natural gas is plentiful and costs less.
But why are U.S. supplies so tight and prices so high? It’s not because we are running out of oil and natural gas. In fact, using U.S. Minerals Management Service projections, the Consumer Alliance for Energy Security calculates that our offshore Outer Continental Shelf contains enough natural gas to heat 100 million homes for 60 years, and enough oil to power 50 million cars for 60 years.
MMS also says Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could hold another 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil. That's 30 years’ of imports from Saudi Arabia. Turned into gasoline, it would power California’s vehicle fleet for 50 years. At $70 a barrel, ANWR oil could replace $1.1 trillion worth of foreign crude, create 500,000 American jobs, and generate hundreds of billions in royalties and taxes.
But President Bill Clinton vetoed the 1995 legislation that would have opened ANWR to drilling, arguing that the oil and gas would not be available for a decade – which is right now, just in time to meet the current supply and price crunch. What do we hear from Congress? No drilling, because the energy won’t be available for a decade.
Even after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita – which impacted a fourth of our production and refining capacity – and in the midst of the current price shocks, Congress cited flimsy environmental arguments and voted to keep U.S. oil and gas locked up: off our Pacific, Atlantic and Eastern Gulf of Mexico coasts, and in Alaska (including ANWR), the Rockies and Great Lakes.
Even California senators and congressmen, representing by far the biggest energy consuming state in the U.S.A., steadfastly oppose petroleum development in any of these areas. And even Florida, our third biggest energy consumer, refuses to allow one rig off its coast, to help slake its ravenous demand for oil and gas to power the cars, boats, trucks, planes, houses, hotels, casinos, businesses, and air conditioners that make the Sunshine State’s good life possible.
Canada is drilling in the Great Lakes. China and Cuba are planning to drill 45 miles off the Florida coast. In 60 years of drilling off our shores, there has only been one accident where significant oil reached shore (1969 off Santa Barbara). We clearly need the oil and gas.
And yet Congress won’t budge. Congress won't budge on drilling, or on easing permits for refineries, pipelines, liquefied natural gas ports, or nuclear power plants. About the only things Congress does promote are tax-subsidized ethanol, biodiesel, wind and solar projects, which together supply less than 0.5% of our energy needs.
However, in a raucous showing of bipartisan, bicameral blather, neo-Hruskas did find time to denounce purported corporate greed, price fixing, and obscene profits – and vote to outlaw “price gouging.” (On a gallon of gasoline, oil companies earn about 10 cents profit, most of which they spend on new exploration and development work, while the federal government gets 18 cents in taxes, and states add another 28 to 60 cents in taxes.) Congress didn't how to define “price gouging,” but are certain they’d know it when they see it (unless it's taxes doing the gouging).
In a few weeks, the same legislators will consider global warming legislation that could push energy prices up another 20% – for no perceptible environmental benefits.
As Will Rogers famously observed,
If we could simply harness congressional hot air, America’s energy problems would be history.
Until then, however, Burke’s wisdom will be but a dim memory. Hruska’s paean to mediocrity will reign supreme. America will be held hostage to foreign “oiligarchs” and domestic environmental extremists. And consumers will have to dig deeper into their pocketbooks – or try to live more like the average family in China or India.
American Government & the U.S. Congress
The American Political System:
Politics & Government in the U.S.A.
Africa: Black Africa *
Africa: North Africa *
American Government 1
LINKS TO PARTICULAR ISSUES & SUBJECT MATTER CATEGORIES
TREATED IN THE PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE, U.S.A.:
American Government 2 * American Government 3 * American Government 4
American Government 5 * American Politics * Anglosphere * Arabs
Arms Control & WMD * Aztlan Separatists * Big Government
Black Africa * Bureaucracy * Canada * China * Civil Liberties * Communism
Congress, U.S. * Conservative Groups * Conservative vs. Liberal
Constitutional Law * Counterterrorism * Criminal Justice * Disloyalty * Economy
Education * Elections, U.S. * Eminent Domain * Energy & Environment
English-Speaking World * Ethnicity & Race * Europe * Europe: Jews
Family Values * Far East * Fiscal Policy, U.S. * Foreign Aid, U.S. * France
Hispanic Separatism * Hispanic Treason * Human Health * Immigration
Infrastructure, U.S. * Intelligence, U.S. * Iran * Iraq * Islamic North Africa
Islamic Threat * Islamism * Israeli vs. Arabs * Jews & Anti-Semitism
Jihad & Jihadism * Jihad Manifesto I * Jihad Manifesto II * Judges, U.S. Federal
Judicial Appointments * Judiciary, American * Latin America * Latino Separatism
Latino Treason * Lebanon * Leftists/Liberals * Legal Issues
Local Government, U.S. * Marriage & Family * Media Political Bias
Middle East: Arabs * Middle East: Iran * Middle East: Iraq * Middle East: Israel
Middle East: Lebanon * Middle East: Syria * Middle East: Tunisia
Middle East: Turkey * Militant Islam * Military Defense * Military Justice
Military Weaponry * Modern Welfare State * Morality & Decency
National Identity * National Security * Natural Resources * News Media Bias
North Africa * Patriot Act, USA * Patriotism * Political Culture * Political Ideologies
Political Parties * Political Philosophy * Politics, American * Presidency, U.S.
Private Property * Property Rights * Public Assistance * Radical Islam
Religion & America * Rogue States & WMD * Russia * Science & Ethics
Sedition & Treason * Senate, U.S. * Social Welfare Policy * South Africa
State Government, U.S. * Subsaharan Africa * Subversion * Syria * Terrorism 1
Terrorism 2 * Treason & Sedition * Tunisia * Turkey * Ukraine
UnAmerican Activity * UN & Its Agencies * USA Patriot Act * U.S. Foreign Aid
U.S. Infrastructure * U.S. Intelligence * U.S. Senate * War & Peace
Welfare Policy * WMD & Arms Control
Africa: Black Africa *
Africa: North Africa *
American Government 1
POLITICAL EDUCATION, CONSERVATIVE ANALYSIS
POLITICS, SOCIETY, & THE SOVEREIGN STATE
Website of Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
An Online Journal of Political Commentary & Analysis
Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr., Editor