Convention Hijinks

by William Yeatman on September 3, 2008

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to bring amusement and gaiety to the national political scene.  Pelosi explained on Meet the Press on Sunday just before the opening of the Democratic Party’s Convention that she had an alternative to allowing offshore drilling.  And that alternative is—natural gas!  “I believe in natural gas as a clean, cheap alternative to fossil fuels."  Leaving aside the fact that natural gas is a fossil fuel, getting it requires drilling, and most of America’s reserves are in federal offshore waters or on federal lands in the Rocky Mountains and Alaska that have been declared off limits by Congress.


Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) picked up on Pelosi’s plan in his acceptance speech at the Democratic Party Convention Thursday night in Denver.  He dismissed more domestic oil production: “Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure.”  But then Obama immediately went on to say: “As president, I will tap our natural gas reserves.”  “Tap” is a technical word meaning “drill”.  And I don’t think he can tap those reserves.  It will take big oil and gas companies investing billions of dollars to find gas (often accompanied by oil deposits) and then build the infrastructure needed to produce it and move it to consumers.  They can produce a lot more natural gas (and oil) if Congress would allow production in federal lands and offshore areas currently under moratoria and if the next President then directs the Interior Department to prepare areas to lease through competitive auctions.


However, Senator Obama did not pick up on the speech by former Vice President Al Gore, Jr. earlier in the evening. Gore preached the old-time gospel of global warming hellfire and damnation. All Obama said about global warming was: “ I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease.”


I hope that Senator John McCain’s (R-Az.) selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate will cause him to reconsider his opposition to allowing oil exploration in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.  If U. S. Geological Survey estimates are roughly accurate, a few wells could produce as much oil as is currently imported from Saudi Arabia for twenty-five years.  Producing more oil in America will lower our balance of payments deficit and create thousands of high-paying jobs.  In addition, the oil produced from this federal land in Alaska will contribute tens of billions of dollars in royalty payments to the federal treasury.  Those royalty payments could help pay for the tens of billions of dollars of subsidies for renewable energy that Congress is likely to pass before the November election.  Perhaps a Senator or Representative could offer an amendment that would re-start the renewables subsidies to pay for them as soon as royalties start flowing from oil production in ANWR. 


Finally, I have just heard a nasty rumor that one piece of the Democratic energy package may be a 25% renewable portfolio standard for electric utilities.

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