I spent $55.55 today to fill up the gas tank on my car. It's gotten to the point where I'm spending about $200 a month on gas due to my 66 mile roundtrip daily commute. Pretty quickly it's going to get to the point where I crash a few nights a week at the Hoy Senior Living Facility which is only a 14 mile roundtrip commute.
Congress has heard the cries of the American people when it comes to these ever-increasing gas prices. Before the 2006 congressional elections, when gas was in the middle $2's a gallon, the Democrats promised to do something. One and a half years later, they've fallen to the floor, kicking and screaming about the evil oil companies -- and that's about it. Maybe they'll soon be promoting Magical Unicorn Power.
Seriously, the Congress passed a bill putting a halt to the filling of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. There wasn't a whole lot of gas going in when compared to the daily domestic usage -- a small fraction of a percent. That legislation helpfully caused gas prices to decrease not at all.
Then Congress got the keen idea to make it possible to sue OPEC -- an international cartel -- in U.S. courts for its anti-competitive practices. This maneuver will do nothing but guarantee our standing with all of the OPEC nations goes right into the cellar. Democrats complain about the Bush administration's foreign policy being "cowboy diplomacy;" the Democrats' foreign policy is "trial lawyer diplomacy."
Today the Senate dragged the oil company executives up to Capitol Hill to harangue them for making a profit margin that would call for layoffs if it happened in the newspaper industry. If the CEOs seemed unfazed, it's because they've been through it all before. Every time oil prices spike, they get called before Congress and have to listen to lectures from a bunch of bumpkins who wouldn't understand supply and demand if you tattooed it into their foreheads.
The truth is, the Democrat-led Congress doesn't really want to do anything that would actually bring down oil prices.
Drilling in ANWR, a place a few thousand Americans will probably ever visit, should be an easy call.
More nuclear power plants -- lots more nuclear power plants -- should also be an easy call. In fact, we shouldn't use a drop of oil (except maybe as lubrication on the turbines) or natural gas in power plants. If we can get natural gas to run buses, it shouldn't be too hard to switch over some trucks and SUVs to the stuff.
I've lived on the Pacific Coast, in California and Washington State, all of my life. I understand that people do not like looking at those ugly offshore drilling platforms. But Congress has turned public distaste for those platforms into a ban in drilling on the continental shelf off the Pacific, Gulf and Atlantic coasts. The solution: Extended Reach Drilling. This technique puts the oil derricks inland, where you can hide them behind trees or disguise them as multi-million dollar homes and they drill downwards and out to sea. (They were talking about this in the mid-1990s when I covered Vandenberg AFB and the California Coastal Commission. The fact that the paper at the previous link still talks about this area's potential a decade later demonstrates the reticence with which legislators have moved forward.)
All of which prompts some excellent questions for the distinguished senators by Brian Kennedy of the Institute for Energy Research (via QandO):
1. Do you understand the fundamental economic principal of supply and demand for commodities pricing in the oil market?
2. Oil is a global commodity, bought and sold on the world market. Given that the nine largest private oil companies hold less than 5% of the entire world's proven oil reserves, isn't it more likely that the law of supply and demand is "manipulating" current prices than the five corporations represented at your witness table?
3. As a U.S. Senator, you have control over oil production on U.S. federal government lands. Taxpayers own these lands and the energy that lies beneath them, but 97% of the federal OCS and 94% of onshore government lands are not being used. Are you willing to help increase the world's supply of oil - and thus reduce the price of oil and gasoline - by allowing more U.S. energy to be produced from these lands?
4. The corporations represented at the hearing today produce roughly 2 million barrels of oil per day in America, for American consumers, with an American workforce. How many barrels of American oil, based on Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates, have each of you voted to produce?
5. How often have each of you voted against supplying American consumers with 10.4 billion barrels of oil from ANWR, 85 billion barrels of oil from the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), and 2 trillion barrels of oil shale in the West?
6. For those of you who have voted to restrict American energy supplies, especially during periods of increased demand, how are your actions any different than those that you have frequently ascribed to OPEC?
7. The sum of the American resources noted in question five is 2,095,400,000,000 barrels of oil. The total proven oil reserves in the entire world is 1.3 trillion barrels. Which number is bigger?
8. As the gap between supply and demand expands, oil prices increase, and oil company profits rise. What's the best way for oil company executives to send the entire U.S. Congress a "thank you" note for keeping energy supplies down and corporate profits up?
9. At today's prices, the United States is sending $1.5 billion dollars overseas - per day - to import oil from foreign countries. Do you think it would be a good idea to spend at least a fraction of that sum producing oil here in the United States?
10. When was the last time you filled up your own gas tank?
I think question #7 may be unfair to the senators, one number is longer than the other and it might confuse them.
If the American people are really, truly angry about gas prices, then they'd toss the Democrats out so the Republicans could let the drilling start. Unfortunately, that won't happen. The media will not honestly report the basic economic situation. Instead they continue their global warming scaremongering -- more oil production and lower prices means more CO2 into the atmosphere. So they'll obfuscate and distract while prices climb.
It's better that way -- for Mother Earth.