Get out of the Way

I bite my tongue when I lazily repeat a political sound bite and cringe when I hear my friends substitute talking points for facts. However, I am about to surrender, or better said, fight fire with fire. Slogans have entered my thoughts at night without my permission. We have all heard catchphrases ad nauseam about how to solve the current oil crisis.

I see members of Congress in my nightmares, meeting in backrooms, discussing how to pacify voters who have had to take second jobs, increase limits on our credit cards or carry buckets of cash to keep our cars running. Optimistically, I always imagine that there is one guy (or girl) in the room perceptive enough to stand up in these meetings and point out that the group-think positions are patently absurd to any informed person with a modicum of intelligence. As punishment for this person’s perceptiveness, he or she is promptly assigned the task of coming up with the Pablum of the day. They all rush from the room to the nearest microphone or television camera and stay on message, feeding swill to the ignorant masses. We, like automatons, are supposed to start repeating those slogans, and presto, perception becomes fact, no matter how ludicrous the perception.

It is frightening to think that we elect people who are this ignorant or conniving to powerful positions. I could almost forgive ignorance, but I can’t forgive them for insulting us by thinking we will swallow any garbage that they serve up. I am almost heartened to think that they really know better, that they are just playing an election year political game. If they can just delay doing anything until their guy gets in, then we can really talk seriously about energy (with all-new slogans that make some sense) so that their guy can take credit.

Use it or lose it. Catchy. (refers to the 68 million acres< give or take a few> of public land oil companies have leased). Listen up, Congress. Most of the leased land (60% to 80%) is not suitable for drilling. A second portion can’t be drilled because of local, state, or environmental restrictions (or all three). A third portion has to be explored with tests to determine its viability. Historically, only about 5% to 10% is likely to be viable. Drilling on this leased land might really take ten years or more. Contrast that to the sure things of drilling offshore, in ANWR, and shale. Why would any reasonable person suggest that America walk away from sure, quick, cheaper solutions to go after the riskier, slower and more expensive ones when we are in an energy crisis?

We Can’t Drill Our Way out of This Problem. Nobody ever asks, “Why not?” We have enough oil from shale alone to match Saudi Arabia’s output. Some experts (I said experts, not politicians) say we have enough oil to last our country for two hundred years if we drill where we know oil will be found. 200 years sounds like a global warming forecast, so let’s reduce it by 90% to 20 years. I know that even 20 years of fossil fuel causes palpitations in liberal hearts, but let’s get real. It will take at least that long to retrofit what we drive, how we travel and transport goods, how we heat and cool, how we defend our country. We have to unwind something that has been building for over a century. We have to have oil. Why not get it here at home instead of sending a large portion of our wealth to other countries? Why not give American ingenuity time to develop real, practical alternatives to fossil fuel?

What happens if we develop alternatives sooner? Oil prices will plummet sooner. Snow may start to melt in an indoor ski resort somewhere; royal jets may be sold; money for Iran nukes might dry up. Sure would hate that.

Wait. Maybe Liberals don’t want oil prices to come down. They are afraid that we will revert to our old habits and forget alternatives. I fear that, too. After all, look at what we did in the seventies. Instead of converting and conserving, we just kept using and stopped drilling and refining. When you are in a hole, stop digging.

Drilling Will Not Lower Prices for Ten Years. That one is almost as bad as use it or lose it. I think Congress should pass a law that requires members to take Economics 101 and spend one hour at a commodities exchange before speaking in public (or in hearings) on economic issues. In class or at the exchange, they will learn about things called futures contracts, puts and calls, etc… After the learning experience, they will fly back to their offices to destroy all evidence of having repeated this idiotic slogan. Users of oil actually buy it in advance of their needs, trying to insulate themselves from future price changes. Speculators also place bets on what the price will be. Guess what the bets will be if we start increasing supply? We can argue all day about whether oil should be speculated, and I remain open to alternate solutions, but for now, speculation can be our friend, not our enemy. Speculators often provide the necessary buy or sell side of a contract to a company that really uses oil and needs the commodities market to function. We can regulate or stop speculation in America, but we can’t stop it globally. Barring catastrophe or war, removing drilling sanctions will bring prices down immediately. Removing restrictions on building refineries in America will lower prices even further at the pump.

Take Oil Out of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Some in Congress call it a rainy day reserve. Short term, dumb solution. It is not a rainy day reserve. We call it strategic for a reason. It is there for national security. What happens if there is a war or natural disaster that disrupts supply from the sources we have become dependent upon? After we drill—after we refine in America—then we can talk about the reserve.

Tax windfall profits and return to the consumer. Haven’t we heard this song-and-dance before? How did it work? Supply went down, prices went up, and consumers got higher prices with no refunds. Remember those long lines at service stations? How quickly we forget. Back to Economics 101, Congress (Supply and Demand Chapter).

Sue OPEC. Hey, why not? Twelve countries’ lawyers against our lawyers. Our position—“We won’t drill, but you have to”. We will look like a crack addict suing his dealer because he got hooked on the stuff. How about Canada? Mexico? Russia? Let’s sue them, too. This solution won’t take long.

Conserve. On this, I can agree. I surprise my conservative friends when I say I am in favor of returning to 55 MPH. Obama says we could save more by inflating our tires and getting tune-ups than by drilling. What can one say about such a statement? How about Mechanics 101 (with a short explanation of fuel injection)? Ninth grade math? I do admit that there should be mirrors on the gas pumps so that we can take a look at ourselves as part of the problem. I know we have already increased CAFÉ standards, and I agree that this is a compromise issue, in spite of my general distaste for governmental interference in the marketplace. Automobile manufacturers should have seen it coming, but they just responded to what we demanded—bigger cars, more gadgets.

Alternatives. Believe it or not, I, like most conservatives, am in favor of lessening our dependence on fossil fuel, foreign and domestic. Nuclear, wind, etc… should certainly be considered. Before we subsidize it, however, let’s consider unintended consequences. (Think Ethanol).

Congress, wake up! This is not just an oil crisis. Not just inflation. Not just economic disaster. Drilling moratoriums and bringing refining to a standstill have strengthened our enemies and weakened us. Russia is saber rattling; Hugo Chavez is trying to buy billions of dollars in submarines and weapons from Russia; Iran is building nuclear weapons. Even the penitentiary island of Cuba is raising its ugly head again by offering refueling stations for Russian bombers. Almost all of this is because of the power of oil. They have it and use it to make themselve richer and more powerful; we have it and refuse to use it. Our hard-earned American wealth is being used against us.

We are not just sending money to people who use it to increase their fleet of royal jets or build indoor ski resorts in the desert; we are sending our national wealth to people who hate us. They use that money to buy weapons and recruit people to kill us, to destroy the American way of life. Let’s get our priorities in order. I want to breathe clean air as much as the most ardent environmentalist, but I want to breathe free air even more.

Ok, I know I have not mentioned slogans from the other side. There was the gas tax holiday idea brought forth by both McCain and Hillary. Unapologetic, political, short-term thinking at its worst. A gas tax holiday ought to really decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Right. I can see the sheiks laughing. How about these? “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” and the hard-hitting “Drill, Drill, Drill”. Maybe slogans do work. So, here is mine, addressed to Congress, extreme environmentalists, and liberals everywhere. Get out of the way. You are threatening our freedom—our way of life.