September 26, 2008

September 26, 2008 | Commentary on Energy and Environment

Conservative Victory on Energy

Under the command of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congress rarely produces a decisive victory for the American people and the conservative movement. It did last week.

In a year that has witnessed soaring oil and gasoline prices, Pelosi spurned her radical environmental allies and caved to demands that the continuing resolution -- the legislation that will fund the federal government starting on Oct.1 -- not include a ban on drilling. Conservatives have won the day by removing a long-standing prohibition on the federal ban on new offshore oil leases and oil shale exploration in the mountain west.

America has taken the first step toward ending its fatally flawed, self-imposed oil embargo. The oil and natural gas reserves off America's coasts are well-documented. The domestic oil resources are equal to 30 years worth of imports from Saudi Arabia and enough natural gas to power America's homes for 17 years. The oil shale reserves in the mountain west could hold up to two trillion barrels of oil. The fact that we may have access to some of these new resources should make some strides toward lowering gas prices and allowing the United States to lower dependence on foreign oil.

This victory would have been impossible if not for conservatives who refused to take no for an answer. The celebrations should be short-lived, though, because liberals and radical environmentalists will try other tactics to stop Americans from producing our own energy. Well-placed sources say the left is resorting to the tactic they frequently use when they lose at the ballot box or in Congress -- they take it to court. The left is preparing lawsuits to stop production offshore and in mountain west. Environmental lawyers "have a proven history of success," says Nicolas Loris of The Heritage Foundation. "They are tough to beat."

But members of Congress are taking note and preparing a legislative solution to the problem of frivolous lawsuits. Says Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.): "Now it is time to ensure drilling is expedited and prevent liberals from tying energy production up in endless litigation." Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) has introduced comprehensive legislation to address the issue of anti-oil litigation, calling the legislation essential if we are "to provide American consumers any real relief."

Unfortunately, not everyone in Congress is as eager to begin domestic energy production. Reid has already said he looks "forward to working with the next president to hammer out a final resolution on this issue" and House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) believes that "next election will decide what our drilling policy is going to be." Reid even used his leadership muscle to change the Senate version of the Continuing Resolution to block oil shale production. The bottom line is environmental lawyers and leftist politicians are using obstructionist tactics to block further production of American oil.

Conservatives need to win this battle and stop the environmentalist from derailing sound energy policy and subverting the will of the American people.

Rangel's Tax Problem

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is being investigated for potential violations of House ethics rules. Rangel is responsible for making law in the areas of individual and corporate income taxes, excise taxes, estate taxes, gift taxes and other miscellaneous taxes. The problem is that he allegedly didn't pay his own taxes and therefore violated numerous House rules.

Mr. Rangel is accused of not paying some $10,000 in taxes owed to the state of New York and the federal government for the value of rental income on a property in the Dominican Republic. It's also said that he underreported the value of a condominium in Florida.

This is the same individual who rewrote the tax code last year in a manner that resulted in a massive tax increase on the American public. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, stated that "Charlie Rangel's tax bill raises taxes on small businesses, middle-class families, pension funds and Americans doing business overseas -- you name it, and Rangel taxes it."

If the accusations prove true, Rangel might want to take a break from raising everybody else's taxes until he can pay the share that he owes. Only in Washington could a member of Congress stay chairman of the most powerful tax-writing committee in the world after proposing a massive tax increase on American taxpayers while not paying his own fair share.

Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation

About the Author

Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies
Government Studies

First Appeared in Human Events