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To drill or not to drill?

Right About Now

Posted: July 10, 2008 8:57 p.m.
Updated: September 11, 2008 5:02 a.m.
On June 18 President Bush asked federal legislators to end the ban on offshore oil drilling. Even though this does not help our short-term national anxiety over the cost of gas at the pump, it is a way to obtain billions of barrels of our own oil. To drill or not to drill remains the question.

Our government has been mulling over energy programs since the Arab oil embargo of 1973. The Democrats have verbally led the charge for energy independence, yet they have prevented real change by imposing restrictions upon the use of our domestic oil supplies.

The U.S. Congress banned almost all offshore oil drilling in 1981, and President George H. W. Bush did the same with an executive order as a result of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. Presidential action to remove the executive order cannot be done, however, until Congress first removes the drilling moratorium it imposed.

In November 2006, House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi issued a press release, praising the Democrats' "common-sense plan to help bring down skyrocketing gas prices." What plan? Almost two years have passed, and Americans are still waiting. The do-nothing Democratic Congress is now also known as the drill-nothing Democratic Congress.

While Democrats in leadership roles are critical of removing the drilling ban, mainstream Americans seem to think otherwise. According to the Rasmussen Reports poll in late June, 67 percent support off-shore drilling, and 64 percent think it will lower gas prices. Similar polls by Fox News (76 percent), CNN (73 percent) and the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg (68 percent) clearly show the majority of Americans favor increased drilling.

Who really profits on each gallon of gas we pump: domestic companies or the government? The Tax Foundation, a Washington D.C.-based tax research organization, reports that between 1977 and 2004 (the latest year reported) there were only three years in which U.S. oil industry profits exceeded government tax collections.

The last time I looked, we pay federal taxes at the rate of 18.4 cents on every gallon. In addition, California taxpayers pay 18 cents per gallon plus an additional 8 percent state sales tax on the total purchase. In retrospect, at $70 for a full tank, McCain's gas-tax summer holiday doesn't seem as ridiculous as the Democrats and the media portrayed it to be.

Even though offshore drilling may not provide immediately recognizable benefits, we need to begin to rid ourselves of our enslavement to OPEC. Security reasons themselves should be impetus enough to demand we become as oil self-sufficient as possible.

It isn't very comforting to look at related world events. China is drilling for oil just 60 miles off the coast of Florida in international waters. On another front, the G8 (United States, Germany, Canada, Great Britain, Russia, France, Japan and Italy) have recently announced that they can only cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050.

Undeterred, while the G8 dawdles around trying to save the world from global warming, India and China, the world's largest polluters, continue to consume massive amounts of oil and gasoline as they struggle to catch up to the big boys.

This presidential election year finds the Democrats gleefully blaming President Bush for all our ills, including the catastrophic increases in energy prices. Given that, it is important to remember that Congress is the branch of government responsible for making the laws.

The party leaders of the Democrats have again wrapped themselves in the mantle of environmentalism and pointed their accusatory finger at Big Oil. They offer no concrete answers to real problems, only diversion, blame and litigious threats. The average Joe wants and needs solutions, not platitudinous posturing and rhetorical jabberwocky.

Here we are in the summer of 2008 with many homes in foreclosure, the price of gasoline increasing at 25 percent a year and food prices not lagging far behind. Folks losing their homes can't afford to even live in their cars because it is too costly to drive.

The procrastination of congressional Democrats continues even now at the height of the energy crunch. The latest example of their political posturing involves an estimated trillion barrels of reserves trapped in porous shale rock in the western United States. This is three times the entire reserve of Saudi Arabia. On May 15, the Senate Appropriations Committee rejected a Republican amendment to overturn the moratorium on oil shale drilling.

Congressional Republicans, on the other hand, favor a comprehensive policy that calls for drilling here in the U.S. now while practicing greater conservation, increasing use of renewable energy such as wind and hydropower.

I've often heard it said that we should save our oil reserves for a rainy day. This is that rainy day. A vast majority of our supply is on government-owned land. Those who pull the oil out of the ground make the largest profits. If it is profit-making that the Democrats find objectionable, then better those profits be made by American companies than by our enemies. The United States is still a democracy based on capitalism, not a socialist state touting globalism. We shouldn't be funding those who have declared a jihad against us.

President Bush is to be commended for shining a realistic light on a long-festering problem. With tenacity and patience America can surely achieve a self-reliant comprehensive energy policy.

Paul B. Strickland Sr. is a resident of Santa Clarita. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal. "Right About Now" runs Fridays in The Signal and rotates among local Republican writers.


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