Congress must stop using the family budget as a laboratory for experimental energy policies

Last week, I blogged on this site about how the earth-first-istas and their limousine liberal allies in the Democrat party are hurting the true environmentalists; those whose livelihood depends on the land itself. I argued that these pseudo-environmentalists are happy to drive up the cost of energy while they arrogantly believe that Americans can simply “drive less and pay more” but they have offered no realistic plan to provide alternative energy solutions to those people who truly need them.

That post received a healthy amount of banter and even a couple of challenges, so I decided to write another one, to keep you informed about the fight as I see it. Let’s agree that it is within the power of Congress to bring the price at the pump down. There are any number of contributing factors to the high price of gas; but they all come down to an essential problem- supply is stagnant while demand increases. The supply and demand imbalance is fueling investor speculation, and OPEC’s confidence that it can charge as much as they want for crude.

We have seen what happens when the United States signals it will increase domestic supply, as the President did last week: the price begins to fall. When Congress follows that action with our own plan to increase supply, we should see the price of crude fall even more.

Judging by last week’s action, it appears the Democrats in the House have finally figured it out, and they are desperately searching for a way to satisfy the overwhelming number of Americans who want to drill here, drill now, and pay less. The problem is that they are hamstrung by the same “pedi”crats I discussed last week; environmental radicals who are using the family budget as a laboratory for their experimental energy policies.

Instead of doing what is right, Democrats have to balance their extremist base against common sense. In so doing, they forced a real turkey of a bill onto the floor last week. They thought they could trick the American voters into believing a bill called the “Drill Act” will solve our production problems, but in reality, the legislation would do very little. The bill merely restated existing rules by which energy companies can exploit leased territory on the American Naval Petroleum Reserve (ANPR), mandated new provisions to benefit organized labor, and tried to create a litigation nightmare for American energy producers.

What the bill didn’t do was remove the environmentalist roadblocks to exploring on leased land. For energy companies, acquiring a lease on government land is just the beginning. The moment you want to sink a well, you can expect to have one environmental group or another file a protest with the Bureau of Land Management. Since 2001, those protests have gone up 706%. From 2001-2007 environmentalists filed an average of 1,180 protests each year. During the mid ‘90s, when gas prices were less than a dollar per gallon, protests averaged 167 per year.

Protests bring a company’s exploration to a halt while the protest is considered. Once the protest phase has been completed, well-heeled environmentalists start the litigation procedure. Of course, the outcome of the case doesn’t matter. All the environmentalists and their trial lawyer buddies are trying to do is keep the company tied up long enough to run out the clock on a 10 year lease. That isn’t hard.

At the end of the day, Democrats couldn’t sell to their own conference and the bill failed. That puts us right back where we started; frozen supply and skyrocketing demand. Democrats did make one important concession, even if unconsciously. By bringing the bill to the floor in the first place, Democrats conceded drilling for domestic oil would bring down the price at the pump. So now that we are all on the same page about the cause of the problem; how long will it take to get to the same solution?