Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Oil, gas approach another record high

Another record: $112 per barrel for crude oil.

Could gasoline prices reach $4/gallon by this summer? It’s very possible and, unfortunately, many Americans have very little idea just how complicated the issue of oil and gas really is.

A fellow columnist with the Beeville Bee-Picayune, David Blackmon, has written an excellent column that answers this issue in more detail. David, whose column “Now wait a minute…” appears regularly in the South Texas paper, raises some important issues. Here it is below:

Buying $4 gasoline? Thank your favorite congressman

By David Blackmon

So here we are, going into the Spring driving season, and oil is going for $105 a barrel. Guess what that means? It means $4 per gallon gasoline is coming soon to a self-serve pump near you. There’s no avoiding it.

It also means that you will soon be treated to politicians at the federal, state and yes, even the local level demonizing the “big oil” companies, and blaming them for the whole mess. All of which will be some nice demagoguery for the masses to consume, and will be completely false.

The simple fact of the matter is that the “big oil” companies – which in this context means ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips – don’t control the price of crude oil any more than you or I do. Oil is a worldwide commodity traded on an open market, and because we as a nation choose to import 65% of our daily consumption of crude oil, we are held hostage to whatever price the world market sets for this commodity.

Yes, you read that right: I said we as a nation “choose” to import 65% of our daily oil consumption. You’re thinking, ‘hey, I didn’t choose any such thing’, to which I’ll just reply oh, yes, you did.

We all have choices in our lives, and we as a country have made the choice to elect members of congress and other public officials who favor locking up vast amounts of our domestic sources of crude oil and preventing their development. The Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is a prime example of this choice, but certainly not the only one we’ve made over the last decade and more.

We also prevent any exploration for oil deposits off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts in the lower 48 states, and have locked up about 40% of federal lands in the Rocky Mountain States. We know that hundreds of millions if not billions of barrels of oil underlie these lands and waters, but choose as a country not to allow their development in favor of importing an increasingly higher percentage of our daily consumption.

When Jimmy Carter was president, he considered the 33% of our daily oil usage that we were importing at that time to be a national emergency, and created the Department of Energy to deal with it. Today the percentage that constituted a national emergency 30 years ago has doubled – apparently, the Energy Department, like most big government ideas, hasn’t worked out so well - and most Americans stand around idly believing it’s no big deal, and we can’t let those big, bad oil companies spoil “pristine” places like ANWR.

We are so unconcerned about this situation that we’ve handed control of congress to the Democrat Party, which is not only not doing anything to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, but is as of this writing considering 23 different draft bills that would lock up even more of our own domestic resources. We’re so ignorant as a population about the reasons why gasoline is going to cost us $4 a gallon by May that most of us will eagerly point fingers of blame at the “big oil” companies when the Democrats hold their annual kangaroo court hearings on gas prices in late spring or early summer. It’s like clockwork.

To make matters worse, we as voters have narrowed the field of presidential candidates to one Republican and two Democrats who are among the least knowledgeable members of the U,S. Senate when it comes to energy policy, all of whom are likely to continue the failed policies that have led us to the current situation, and enact new policies that are even dumber. All of them parrot environmentalist talking points about “global warming” and the joys of alternative fuels, ignoring the reality that we’ve just had the coldest winter in 40 years and that it’ll be 40 years more before we can count on alternative fuels supplying anything resembling a significant portion of our energy needs.

Like it or not, we are going to need oil and natural gas for many years to come, and we are the only nation on the face of the earth that is so irrational that it refuses to exploit its own domestic resources. The Russians and Chinese are being very smart by contrast, not only exploiting their own resources, but also locking up future foreign supplies of crude via treaty. While the Russians are rapidly developing the oil and gas resources in the Arctic regions off their northern shore, left-wing environmental groups in this country have successfully foiled via lawsuits the efforts of Shell and ConocoPhillips to do the same in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas north of Alaska.

But it’s not just the Russians and Chinese who are behaving more rationally than the U.S. regarding energy policy. The Cubans recently placed an oil drilling platform within 49 miles of the coast of Florida in international waters. Meanwhile, the geniuses who run our government have gone about banning any U.S. companies from exploiting known large deposits of oil and natural gas anywhere within 125 miles of the Florida coast.

And now these same congressional geniuses are considering “Global Climate Change” legislation that would make the country’s energy situation infinitely worse. Democrat Joe Lieberman and Republican John Warner are co-sponsors of a bill that would create the country’s first cap and trade system to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. This bill as it is currently written would immediately create a supply crisis on natural gas, which would cause natural gas prices to rise dramatically. In Texas, natural gas-fired power plants supply about 70% of your electricity.

If you think gasoline is getting expensive, wait until you see your electricity bill after President Clinton/Obama/McCain signs the Lieberman/Warner bill into law.

Life in the liberal zoo goes on.

(This column originally appeared in the March 15, 2008 issue of the Beeville (Texas) Bee-Picayune. Reprinted with permission from the author)

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