Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Nancy Pelosi Ducks the Issues Like a Pro
I meant to publish this a few days ago, but life intervened and time slipped by. Happens.
Anyway, imagine for a moment that you are the Speaker of the House. Your party has the majority of seats but you won’t let a vote happen on offshore drilling at a time when most Americans are feeling an energy pinch like they haven’t felt since the 70’s. In fact, since that timeframe far exceeds the short attention span of most of us, it would be safe to say that gas and oil prices spiking over the past few years has brought a sense of urgency that could overpower most every other issue in an election year--these new energy costs may not be unprecedented, but they certainly feel like something new.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday ruled out a vote on new offshore oil drilling even as Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said he might be open to a compromise that included it.
The scramble over expanded drilling off America’s coasts — ammunition for a weekend of rat-a-tat-tat by the presidential campaigns — underscores the political power of $4-a-gallon gas. Though President Bush and other backers of new drilling acknowledge it wouldn’t directly affect gas prices for years, they have pounded Democrats for opposing the measure, which is now supported by most Americans.
Why do you not allow the vote?
There are only two good reasons that I can think of to duck the vote when your party is in the majority: first, you don’t feel that you have the support of enough of your party to win the vote, or, second, your party isn’t on the popular side of the issue and you don’t want votes going on record when they could change the way people will vote in just a few months. The Democrats have aligned themselves to an increasingly unpopular position--the systematic denial of use of U.S. natural resources--to push a strong alt.energy with no excuses agenda. That argument is a loser when citizens are more concerned about being able to drive to the grocery store (and, hopefully, still afford groceries) than they are about the ideology that undergirds the Democrat’s need to avoid almost any new proposal to drill or mine anything that could be used to maintain or expand our current energy infrastructure. Their opposition extends far beyond the practical--that is, while moving to renewable sources for energy production is admirable and a goal that I support, the practical mind realizes that we won’t get there by dismantling our economy.
Refusal to address energy production in a responsible manner--realizing that natural gas, oil, and coal aren’t actually tools of the devil might be a good place to start--is advocating the destruction of our economy and the punishment of low wage earners who have a harder time dealing with rising energy costs than those of us who actually have a little elasticity built in with higher incomes. Denying the use of our own natural resources is just foolish. Good leadership would understand that we need those resources to help shore up energy production issues and our economy while we come up with a good mixed strategy for energy production in the future.
Of course, I can’t deny that none of our elected leaders have shown much in the way of leadership on the subject over the last few decades and I wonder if either guy auditioning for the office of President will represent an improvement?
One thing the article mentions that deserves to be addressed is the assumption that new drilling wouldn’t affect gas prices today. While renewed offshore drilling wouldn’t directly change gas reserves today, it probably would affect gas prices today--or, at least, in the relatively near future. The price of oil and gas are changed by investor’s expectations of what is going to happen in the future and if they believe that production capacity exceeds demand (and projected growth in demand), then the price will drop. One of the arguments against tapping the strategic reserves (aside from the fact that they should only be released in the most extreme emergencies--and this ain’t that) is that it wouldn’t have much of an effect in the long term because it doesn’t represent new production capacity. It represents a relatively small and temporary influx of product that would do nothing to change future supply or demand issues. Tapping the reserves would probably result in a very short lived dip (albeit a significant one) in oil prices and a small change in gas prices.
Whatever the result to releasing a portion of the strategic reserves, though, it would be short lived. I’d rather have a long term solution to production questions coupled with an aggressive push to address long term demand questions--a push that is already underway thanks to consumers who were seriously spooked by the results of $140+ oil. I sort of doubt that, even if oil prices were to get back below $80/barrel, we will be seeing a return of the SUV as king of the American road.
Oil prices are already easing to below $120/bbl as I write this (you can see the current price here) and show signs of fluttering down even more as the travel season is starting to come to a close, bringing a sense of relief to folks at gas pumps everywhere. While we have this small respite--and a real need for more relief to help pump up the economy and ease the effects that energy costs are having on inflation--we need to address our long term energy needs. Solar cells, wind farms, and bags of wishful thinking aren’t enough right now to power the economy (and don’t get me started on the ridiculous opposition to nuclear power in the US).
Citizens are demanding solutions to our near term difficulties and I believe that they will respond to strong leadership on the longer term questions. Nancy Pelosi has showed, though, that her best strategy involves ducking the issue. At least until the election is over.
PS- While I generally prefer a Republican in the White House, I tend to like Republicans better when they are a minority in the House and Senate. The political theater is more entertaining and the party takes on a rebellious bent. As a majority, though, they simply failed to deliver on the promises made during those years in the minority.
Of course, since I’m largely a fan of gridlock in government--that state where they are so engrossed in their tug-of-war with the opposition that they forget to pass stupid ore even destructive laws under the supposed cover of my best interests--I might be letting my bias show.