Just Do It!
Start drilling for oil, that is, which is the advice Robert Samuelson gives in his Washington Post column today on what the country can do about gas prices, “energy independence,” and “environmental fears.” He writes:
“The truth is that we're almost powerless to influence today's prices. We are because we didn't take sensible actions 10 or 20 years ago. If we persist, we will be even worse off in a decade or two. The first thing to do: Start drilling.
“It may surprise Americans to discover that the United States is the third-largest oil producer, behind Saudi Arabia and Russia. We could be producing more, but Congress has put large areas of potential supply off-limits. These include the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and parts of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. By government estimates, these areas may contain 25 billion to 30 billion barrels of oil (against about 30 billion barrels of proven U.S. reserves today) and 80 trillion cubic feet or more of natural gas (compared with about 200 tcf of proven reserves).”
He makes three important points:
- “The best we can do is to try to exert long-term influence on the global balance of supply and demand. Increase our supply. Restrain our demand. With luck, this might widen the worldwide surplus of production capacity.”
- “Members of Congress complain loudly about high oil profits ($40.6 billion for Exxon Mobil last year) but frustrate those companies' desire to use those profits to explore and produce in the United States.”
- “On environmental grounds, the alternatives to more drilling are usually worse. Subsidies for ethanol made from corn have increased food prices and used scarce water, with few benefits.”
The bottom line, according to Samuelson:
“If we don't start now, our future dependence and its dangers will grow. Count on it.” (emphasis added)
Sound advice, indeed. As the U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R) said in a press release last Friday:
“We recently marked the two-year anniversary of congressional Democrats saying they had a “commonsense plan” to lower fuel costs. Problem is, that plan has never been revealed and gas prices are, on average, $1.25 per gallon higher than in 2006 . . . Enough is enough. Empty rhetoric and political promises have done absolutely nothing to lower fuel costs. So far in the 110th Congress, not one energy bill brought to a vote in the U.S. House has contained a single watt or gallon of new domestic energy, despite assurances from Democratic leaders that they have a “commonsense plan.” It’s time to see that plan. “ (emphasis added)
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