Energy Policy – a Good Old Thursday Afternoon Rant

So where are we in the discussion about using present energy sources (oil) while we get our ducks in a row concerning replacement alternative (and renewable) fuels?

In a word: nowhere.

It should come as no surprise to anyone, that like Social Security and Medicare, politicians on both sides of the isle have ignored the looming energy crisis for decades.

Well guess what, it is no longer a “looming” crisis – it’s here. And what have we to show for it? Record prices, increasing global demand for the only fuel presently available in quantity to meet that demand and an “energy policy” which can only be described as absolutely unresponsive to the public need. Or, if your prefer, pure garbage.

For 30+ years, our politicians have ignored this problem even when hints in the ’70s and ’80s gave them a glimpse of what was to come. They stubbornly refused to address the growing problem. Instead they ignored it. You see, actually addressing the energy problem would have required they admit that while the ultimate solution must come from all areas of energy production, in the short-term it must be primarily oil (and coal). But to admit that, they would have had to actually risk their political careers. They’d have had to make the case to the public that in order for there to be true energy independence, more nuclear power along with vastly increased exploitation of existing known oil reserves and more refinery capacity would have to be an integral part of any such a policy for the foreseeable future.

Instead, for the most part, they took the easy road, drank the popular environmental kool-aid, touted alternative fuel “vaporware” as being just around the corner, banned drilling, crippled our ability to build nuclear power plants and oil refineries and blindly ignored the intensifying global demand for energy.

Now, faced with the reality of $4 a gallon gas and the prospect of that never coming down again, they’re like deer caught in the headlights.

And when confronted with the reality that oil must be an integral and growing part of at least the short-term solution to our energy problem the usual suspects retreat into the cave, begin banging their tribal one-note drum and resort to petulant insult rather than signaling a willingness to discuss changing their mind for the good of their fellow citizens. A typical example of that would be the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who, while respectfully calling the Vice President “oil man Cheney” said this :

“So all that Cheney can talk about, the Oil Man Cheney can talk about, is drilling, drilling drilling. But there is not enough oil in America to make that the salvation to our problems.”

Of course the 1.5 trillion barrels sitting in western US shale alone, not to mention the 89.5 billion barrels offshore, show Harry Reid to either be incredibly ignorant, in which case he should just keep quiet, or a plain old liar. The fact is the shale reserve alone would fulfill all our energy needs for about 200 years.

Giving Reid the benefit of the doubt he doesn’t deserve as well as a very forgiving interpretation of his statement, perhaps what he is actually trying to say in his own muddled way is that oil isn’t “the salvation to our problems.”

Well, I’m sure this will come as a complete surprise to Mr. Reid, but as far as I know, no one is arguing it is!

What is instead being argued, in the absence of an energy policy for which Sen. Reid bears direct responsibility, is that oil exploration and exploitation may be the solution to our energy needs in the short-term while we try to make up for Reid’s 30 years of incompetence and politically motivated short-sightedness. It is he and those like him who have been instrumental in landing us in the mess we face today.

Instead of facing up to what he has failed to do while a member of the Senate, Reid childishly prefers to throw stones at the Vice President.

And Speaker Pelosi is no better:

“The president’s proposal sounds like another page from the administration’s energy policy that was literally written by the oil industry: give away more public resources to the very same oil companies that are sitting on 68 million acres of federal lands they’ve already leased.”

Of course, as with most things she says, she’s clueless about her claims. For those who are interested, an oil expert explains what Pelosi and Steny Hoyer seem not to understand:

Some lawmakers state that oil companies currently hold millions of acres of leases that are not producing. This is true, but not for the reasons politicians would have you believe. It seems the lawmakers would have us believe that oil and gas exist beneath every acre of every lease the government issues; that obtaining a lease was a virtual guarantee that the lease holder would strike oil and gas, or both. Obviously, that’s absurd. If it weren’t, I’d be on line at the Department of Interior trying to buy an acre or two for myself.

Drilling costs money. Thus oil companies have developed very sophisticated methods of exploring for oil and gas that don’t require the erection of a rig and any actual drilling (which is very expensive) until they’re pretty darn sure there’s a good bit of oil down there. Then and only then do they commit to a test well.

So what they are looking for, as they check these leases out, is enough recoverable oil to make drilling a test well worthwhile. If they are holding a lease, you can pretty much bet the house that they’ve processed that lease and the reason there isn’t an oil rig on it is because they’ve determined it to either be without oil or without enough recoverable oil to make it economically feasible to drill.

And with vast swaths of this country not producing a drop of oil because those two conditions exist, it isn’t at all infeasible that 68 million acres fit that description as well, is it?

Anyway, here we have an actual crisis laying in the laps of the leaders in Congress – who, by the way, promised they’d lower the price of gas when they were running their 2006 campaign, remember? – and when presented the opportunity to actually do something about it, they punt. Their response is to point fingers, insult, lie and blame “big oil” without ever doing anything positive to help the situation.

It is an amazing performance. I can’t wait until they suddenly realize that almost 70% of the country wants to see drilling increased offshore in order to drive gas prices down. I would imagine the reversal of their present positions will be so stunningly swift that both Reid and Pelosi will suffer from whiplash.

In the meantime, every time you fill up your car with that ever more expensive gallon of gas, you know exactly who to blame for being in this predicament. Pelosi and Reid aren’t the only one’s who’ve gotten us into this mess. Many of the others have a big old “R” behind they’re name. Pelosi and Reid are simply the current crop. But they still deserve a giant, heaping helping of the blame and I think we ought to make sure they know we’re well aware of that fact and not let them play the blame-shifting game (Congressional hearings with “big oil” anyone?) of which they’re so fond.

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