More Stupid Congress Tricks: Energy Supply Edition

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The Wall Street Journal is running a nifty editorial about the recent obtuse energy (or is it "anti-energy?") antics of our Congressoids:

Anyone wondering why U.S. energy policy is so dysfunctional need only review Congress's recent antics. Members have debated ideas ranging from suing OPEC to the Senate's carbon tax-and-regulation monstrosity, to a windfall profits tax on oil companies, to new punishments for "price gouging" – everything except expanding domestic energy supplies.

Amid $135 oil, it ought to be an easy, bipartisan victory to lift the political restrictions on energy exploration and production. Record-high fuel costs are hitting consumers and business like a huge tax increase. Yet the U.S. remains one of the only countries in the world that chooses as a matter of policy to lock up its natural resources. The Chinese think we're insane and self-destructive, while the Saudis laugh all the way to the bank.

There are two separate moratoria on offshore drilling: One is a ban that Congress has attached to every budget since 1982, and the other is a 1990 executive order that President Bush has waived in only a few cases. Republicans made failing attempts to overcome both when they ran Congress, but current Democratic leaders and their green masters remain adamantly opposed. The new political opportunity amid record prices is to convince enough rank-and-file Democrats that they'll suffer at the polls if they don't break with this antiexploration ideology.

While energy "independence" is an impossible dream, there's no doubt the U.S. has vast undeveloped fossil-fuel deposits. A tiny corner of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge contains an estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil and would be the largest producing oil field in the Northern Hemisphere. Yet the Senate blocked that development as recently as last month. The Outer Continental Shelf is estimated to contain some 86 billion barrels of oil, plus 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Yet of the shelf's 1.76 billion acres, 85% is off-limits and 97% is undeveloped.

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The Journal editorial is correct when it notes

Yes, we know, increased drilling is no energy cure-all….

But it wouldn't hurt.

Whole WSJ editorial here.