House Passes Offshore Drilling Bills
The House of Representatives this week and last passed three bills to force the Obama Administration to increase offshore oil and gas production. H. R. 1229 passed by a vote of 263 to 163, with 28 Democrats voting Yes. H. R. 1230 passed last week by 266 to 149, with 33 Democrats in favor. And H. R. 1231 passed the House 243 to 179, with the support of 21 Democrats.
Naturally, the White House opposes all three bills. President Obama and his top energy and environmental officials support policies to raise gasoline and electricity prices for consumers.
Next week, the Senate may vote on a bill being pushed by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to take away federal subsidies for the oil industry. Nick Loris and Curtis Dubay of the Heritage Foundation sort out what is and is not a subsidy in the Senate bill here. Suffice it to say, the big ticket items are not subsidies to the oil and gas industry, but standard business deductions. David Kreutzer, also of the Heritage Foundation, compares the subsidies that the oil industry gets to the immensely larger subsidies that the wind power industry gets. No one claims that the Senate bill will lower gas prices.
Getting off the Boonedoggle Bandwagon
The first sign appeared this week that the burgeoning bandwagon in the House of Representatives to pass what I have called the T. Boone Pickens Earmark Bill is slowing down. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) removed his name as a co-sponsor of H. R. 1380, the NAT GAS Act (which stands for New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions). Pearce deserves extra credit for doing this because the biggest industry in his southern New Mexico district is oil and natural gas production.
T. Boone Pickens wrote a letter published in the Wall Street Journal on 11th May in response to a devastating column by Holman Jenkins in the 7th May Journal. Pickens writes that, “Since July 2008 I have spent more than $80 million of my own money…” to pass the Pickens Plan. This $80 million figure does not include the many millions of dollars Pickens has contributed to Republican candidates and the Republican Party over the decades. If enacted, the bill would probably increase the value of Pickens’s natural gas holdings by several billion dollars. So $80 million could turn out to be a very good investment.
The opponents of H. R. 1380, which include Freedom Action, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, and Americans for Prosperity (all members of the Cooler Heads Coalition), have probably spent in the neighborhood of $800 to defeat the Pickens-Your-Pocket Plan. That expenditure could save American taxpayers close to $10 billion in federal subsidies to the natural gas and natural gas vehicle manufacturing industries over the next five years. That’s even better value for money.