September 16, 2008

September 16, 2008 | Commentary on Economic Mobility

"Drill, Baby, Drill"

Less than two weeks ago, the Republican convention erupted with chants of "Drill, Baby, Drill." In a recent Quinnipiac poll of likely voters support "drilling for new oil supplies in currently protected areas off shore" Support included 82% of Republicans, 50% of Democrats, 60% of Independents, 67% of men, 58% of women, 65% of whites and 54% of blacks. Yet liberals in Congress don't seem inclined to expand domestic energy production.

A group of ten senators have teamed up to pass compromise legislation on energy production this year -- the so-called "Gang of Ten." Its legislation was the Senate's initial attempt to end the stalemate on energy, but it's full of half measures and empty promises.

As my Heritage Foundation colleague Ben Lieberman points out, the "offshore provisions provide little new oil and natural gas and fall well short of what should be done, while the rest of the bill offers federal micromanagement of energy markets and tax increases likely to do more harm than good." According to the Institute for Energy Research, the plan would increase reliance on foreign oil, "cost the U.S. economy 637,000 jobs, and reduce U.S. household earnings by nearly $35 billion over the next 10 years."

Legislation being drafted by Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is no better. The exploration component (opening up drilling in a small portion of the Eastern Gulf and little financial incentives for southeastern states to allow drilling) resembles the Gang of Ten's proposal. In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democratic bill is a "result of a serious compromise among Democrats," many of whom oppose domestic energy exploration.

Meanwhile, OPEC has announced a cut of more than half a million barrels per day as prices slipped below $100 per barrel. The U.S. could be producing more than one million barrels a day from now-restricted areas offshore and another one million barrels from ANWR. Unfortunately, any "compromise" reached in the U.S. House or Senate is unlikely to make up for OPEC's most recent production cut. Americans deserve better. Let's heed the call to"drill, baby, drill" with no conditions or restrictions.

No Visa for Terrorists

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) has sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to deny Iranian strongman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad entry into the United States. It's the stated intention of Ahmadinejad to participate in the 63rd session of the U.N. General Assembly, starting on Sept. 16, 2008, the letter says. Conservatives know this "Axis of Evil" leader doesn't deserve a podium to spew his anti-American rhetoric.

Rewarding Failure

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) last week introduced legislation to prohibit the former executives and directors of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from receiving golden parachutes and million-dollar severance packages after they were terminated. The federal government has taken over these home-loan giants because of mismanagement. "In the free-market system, you are rewarded for success and punished for failure," Bunning said. "I don';t think we should be lining the pockets of those individuals who were responsible for driving Fannie and Freddie into the ground on the backs of the American taxpayers. Poor management does not deserve to be rewarded, and my bill would make sure that it isn't." Kudos, Sen. Bunning, for defending taxpayers.

Another Bailout

The Federal Governments Highway Trust Fund needs an infusion of cash, or it will go broke, according to Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters. High gasoline prices have slowed the collection of gas taxes, because people are driving less. A bill is pending in the Senate to spend $8 billion of general funds to bail out the highway trust fund.

Sens. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) last week blocked the passage of the bill because Majority Leader Harry Reid wanted to pass it without a vote. Gregg strongly objects to the use of tax funds designated for general spending being transferred to a fund that's supposed to be funded by gasoline taxes.

Constitutional Crisis?

On Aug. 8, Sen. Nancy Erickson gaveled the Senate into session. The Senate has been having pro-forma sessions that last a few minutes to block President Bush from making recess appointments. Never heard of Sen. Erickson? That's because she's not an elected senator. But for one moment in Senate history, this staffer presided with no senators present in the chamber. This is against the rules of the Senate and sets a dangerous precedent for an institution known for being the deliberative chamber of the Congress.

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