Ever since Election 2000, the Democrats have made oil the centerpiece of their political platform. The Bush/Cheney ticket was demonized from the beginning because of its connections with Big Oil – and, of course, Halliburton.
The “No blood for oil” mantra became the battle cry of the anti-warrior. It was a popular sentiment – in 2002 when the chanting started, oil was selling on the international market for 20 bucks a barrel. Since then, the price of oil has risen seven-fold. As a result, the reasoning of many Americans has been converted. They are now beginning to see that if our petroleum-based economy crashes, our nation will crash with it, and we will be living in Third World conditions.
So, all of a sudden, the reality sets in that maybe securing our energy lifeline is worth fighting for.
Six years ago, the majority of Americans was concerned that drilling in the ANWR Wildlife Refuge might upset the porcupine caribou. With the price of oil at $140 and rising, suddenly we’re wondering; “Maybe it’s all right for the porcupine caribou to just hop over the pipelines and enjoy the vast regions where there are none.”
The Democrats have made keeping America energy-dependent a campaign issue. They oppose offshore drilling for American companies, despite the fact foreign countries are drilling for oil just off our coasts.
Already, Norway and Spain are working on a joint drilling venture just 65 miles from Key West, Fla. Cuba has divided its side of the Florida Straits into 59 lease areas. As of the end of February, foreign countries had secured the rights or were negotiating the rights to 16 of these areas. And, incidentally, all these prospective drillers aren’t nearly as careful about oil spills as American companies are. Most don’t even have the technology to protect from oil spills.
But almost all of the America’s Outer Continental Shelf – waters within 200 miles of shore – have been off limits to U.S. drilling since the early 1980s because of congressional bans and executive orders.
The Interior Department estimates the OCS has more than 115 billion barrels of oil and 633 trillion cubic feet of natural gas available for extraction. At current levels of consumption, that would satisfy the nation’s oil needs for about 16 years and its natural gas needs for some 25 years.
However, we aren’t allowed to drill for it.
That’s the question for which the liberal politicians are now scrambling to find an answer. Their first argument is “the environment.” That’s all they had to say in the past! They just had to say the phrase, “It’s a risk to the environment” and their liberal backers would form a line to chant their “greens” slogans. It didn’t matter whether or not such “risks” were proven – merely suggesting them was enough justification. But that was when oil was $20 a barrel.
When I bought my car, I could fill it for under $30. Today, a fill-up costs about $100 and counting.
This has caused the liberals to face a new kind of reality. Suddenly, we are a nation divided. When it comes to energy, there seems to be only two groups of Americans. Those who can afford an extra hundred bucks a tankful, and those who support domestic drilling for survival. The few who can absorb the extra costs still happily repeat the liberal playbook and think, “Sure, gas is expensive, but that’s the idea. High prices will force us to look for alternative energy sources.”
Who cares if it bankrupts the vast majority of “little guys” in the process? I noted with interest on a recent Fox morning show that the Democrats in Congress are starting to feel the heat from their constituencies. They are furious about Democrats blocking oil exploration in our proven reserves and now wants some answers.
The liberal politicians are clearly in a dilemma. All they can do is repeat their usual talking points about “the 66 million acres ‘they’ (the evil, rapacious oil companies) have already been granted drilling rights on.” Now that most Americans are beginning to see a possible economic disaster, they have become much more critical in their thinking about the “Green Movement agenda.”
They are beginning to ask why Congress set aside areas for drilling where there isn’t any oil, and have locked up areas where there are proven oil reserves?
The other Democratic mantra says, “even if we drill now, it will take 10 years before the prices drop at the pumps.” They could sell that to their constituents before fuel rose above $3.50 per gallon. But now that it is zooming above $5.00 per gallon, it doesn’t elicit the same fervor of “environmental conviction.”
The real question is, “What will prices look like in ten years if we don’t drill?” It will take us at least 10 more years to develop transportation that uses alternative fuel, even if we go all out right now. The nation will plunge into economic catastrophe before then. I am for going all out to develop new kinds of fuel for transportation. But we have to allow time for the transition.
Moreover, the above “mantra” isn’t true. If the U.S. suddenly lifts its moratorium on drilling and begins setting up rigs on the Continental Shelf and in ANWR, OPEC will see that it’s losing its “golden goose.” It will immediately increase production to protect its market share. One need only go back to 1980 following the OPEC oil crisis for proof. Congress imposed a moratorium on drilling, and the Saudis raised production. Ten years after the OPEC crisis began, oil prices suddenly fell to $18 per barrel – where they remained as long as the Saudis needed the U.S. to protect them from Saddam Hussein.
When our “protection” seemed no longer needed, they quietly cut back on production to create the current oil “shortage.” Faced with the threat of losing U.S. market share, it is in their long-term interests to increase production and drive the price back down. At $18 per barrel, domestic drilling is too expensive to be viable. At $140 per barrel, domestic drilling would be wildly profitable.
Put another way, at $18 per barrel, the U.S. threat of domestic drilling was an obvious bluff. At $140 per barrel, it becomes an issue of national security.
Both OPEC and the congressional Democrats find themselves in decidedly unfamiliar territory. They’ve banked on American idealism winning out over American pragmatism – and they’ve generally been right. When it comes to energy, American idealism can be expressed by the acronym “NIMBY,” or Not In My Back Yard.
When it comes to putting food on the table for their families, Americans – even idealistic (but working-class) Democrats – become uncharacteristically pragmatic.
At $20 a barrel, oil isn’t worth inconveniencing the caribou. But when the choice is between a tank of gas to go to work, or a bag of groceries to feed one’s family, or losing one’s house, one begins to wonder if maybe we’re not overestimating how many thousands of square miles the porcupine caribou need to roam around in?