Five for fueling

I saw this on the Andy Harris Congressional site the other day and was ready to comment until I found out Friday that he would be the subject of Bill Reddish’s AM Salisbury program this morning. It gave me a chance to listen and see if he’d revise and extend his remarks; sure enough Senator Harris did.

While calling a five-point energy plan a “Prescription for the Pain at the Pump” may be a little hokey, nevertheless it has some excellent points that we need to get to work on quickly. Here are the five parts to Harris’s plan and my reaction to them.

1.    Temporarily suspend the federal and state gasoline taxes of $.42 from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

In theory this sounds like a good idea, but I don’t see it having a full 42 cent impact for too long after adoption. It will give station owners a chance to increase their profit margin a little bit so my guess is that prices may only come down about a quarter and the day after Labor Day would make for a shock at the gas pump as the prices come back up 40 cents. Conversely, that late-summer and early fall period tends to be when gas prices quickly fall so that shock may not be as severe.

And there’s a part of me that would like to see the government squirm for revenue like we’re squirming under the weight of increased prices for energy, food, and not to forget higher taxes for us who live in Maryland.

Since Andy will be serving at a federal level, perhaps a better option would be to phase out the federal gas tax entirely over a period of 2 to 3 years. I know, in Maryland the state will simply raise its fuel tax by the same amount to make it a wash for the consumer but at least someone would be working for a little less going from our wallet to that financial black hole inside the Beltway.

2.    Increase efficiency and simplify the refining process by temporarily reducing the over 40 different gasoline blends nationwide to four blends.

To heck with temporary, why not just make that a permanent reduction? As far as I’m concerned we need only four blends – regular, super, premium, and diesel. Andy brought up the point of efficiency in refining fewer blends this morning and it’s a very sound one. Unlike the cars we fill up with this multitude of gasoline blends, fewer choices are better. After all, at a gas pump you only get three or four options so why have more?

I’m waiting for the argument to come up about these blends being in place to cut air pollution. Yep, I knew it would come. But did you know that the cars of today pollute by a factor of about 1/10 compared to the cars of 30-40 years ago? Indeed, the effect does subside as a car ages but even 10 year old cars are somewhat improved compared to 1970’s era automobiles. (This was an argument I posed against the 2007 Clean Cars Act here in Maryland – the increased cost for new cars will keep old cars on the road that much longer.)

3.    Open domestic natural gas and oil production in areas such as off the Aleutian Islands, in ANWR, and on the continental shelf to decrease our dependence on oil from foreign countries.

Six words: drill here, drill now, pay less.

Democrats and their sycophants argue that there’s already 68 million acres under oil company lease which aren’t being explored. While that area translates into one roughly the size of Nevada, bear in mind that there’s no guarantee that any oil is under the acreage an oil company is leasing. I’d allow an oil company to lease my back yard if they wanted to pay rent but I’m thinking there’s not too much oil down there – so it is with millions of the acres under lease.

And then imagine the vastness of a proven oil-producing area like the Gulf of Mexico and how many Nevadas could fit into there. Of course, we also have to account for federal regulations which may have been enacted after the lease was undertaken and thwarted the search for oil. Regardless, the 68 million acre argument rings hollow when oil companies are prevented from exploring and drilling in areas with proven reserves such as ANWR.

4.    Increase long-term oil-refining capacity by establishing fast-track approval for construction of new refineries and expansion of existing refineries.

While I agree wholeheartedly with this point, I also need to ask why the federal government has any say-so in this process anyway. Perhaps I ask because my copy of the Constitution doesn’t say a word about the federal government sticking its nose into environmental protection. However, given the current situation I’ll concede that yes, on the federal and state levels we need to do whatever is necessary to get more refineries built and allow the oil companies to use the vast amounts of monetary capital they’re acquiring to create thousands of short- and long-term good-paying jobs. I know the CBF/WET/(insert radical environmental group here) types would have a heart attack about it (and maybe that’s part of the appeal to me) but if someone wanted to build an oil refinery in my city I’d have little objection. Having lived in a city that boasts two refineries I can tell you that yes there’s an odor associated with having a refinery but it smells better than chicken doo-doo.

5.    Provide incentives for technological innovations in alternative forms of energy like nuclear, cellulosic ethanol, solar, geothermal, and hydrogen cell.

I like the idea but would love to see these oil companies step up to the plate and fund this themselves. British Petroleum has done a series of commercials extolling their forays into alternative energy – instead of pursuing an opportunity for rent-seeking why don’t they front the $300 million amount John McCain has bandied about as a federal prize fund?

Andy Harris spoke out this morning about America “not being a leader” in the energy field and he’s correct to some extent. Other countries are invading our backyard and extracting oil or natural gas that may have been accessible to us had we acted sooner. (Underground, oil knows no borders.) Unfortunately, our state and federal governments seem to favor rewarding less efficient and more expensive technology with subsidies and other market-bending incentives rather than just stepping aside and letting the experts in the energy field work their magic.

Best among the statements Harris made this morning was the patently obvious one where he said, “we can’t stop using oil tomorrow.” (I suppose we could but we’d become a Third World country within about two hours.) While many tout alternative energy sources, the reality is that even stringent conservation to the point of rationing and devoting millions of farm acres to crops producing fuel instead of food won’t come close to taking the place of oil in our currently stagnant economy, let alone a growing one.

Someday someone probably not yet born will figure out a newer and better method of fueling transport, heating our homes, and the myriad other commonplace daily tasks which are fueled by oil. But until then, we need to take as much control as we can over our own energy destiny and return to those days where America produced the majority of its oil consumption.

Since I know folks on the other side like ShoreIndie who support Frank Kratovil will chide me for not looking at his side, I owe him a listen and will make the time to do so in order to comment on the opposing point of view. Later this week I’ll attempt a critique of the Kratovil plan.

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.

3 thoughts on “Five for fueling”

  1. I have a post popping up on Wednesday that I wrote on Monday, and I agree with you about the word temporary in reference to reducing gasoline blends. A reduction should be made, and it should be permanent. The problem is that this is not a short term solution, and maybe he threw the temporary in there to make it sound like the blends could be changed next week.

    As for the 68 million acres, the estimates show the potential to double domestic oil production with existing leases. The reserves of ANWR are not “proven” any more than the 68 million acres are. All of the numbers are best guesses, and the best guess shows that the 68 million acres hold several times the estimated peak output of ANWR. Drill here, drill now. Absolutely. They have 10,000+ existing permits to do just that without ANWR or additional offshore areas.

    I’m wondering why Andy didn’t include ending the tariff on imported ethanol. We could get boat loads of ethanol from South America cheaper that we can produce it ourselves. Brazil is almost totally self sufficient on ethanol, and they are producing a surplus that could be lowering our fuel costs right now.

  2. Michael,

    Did I miss something, or did he — and you — not mention public transportation?

    Michael wrote:

    “Someday someone probably not yet born will figure out a newer and better method of fueling transport”

    Michael, are you daft? Along with my above suggestion, a huge consumer of fuel is long haul truck transportation which could easily (apart from union protest) be converted over to freight rail transportation.

    Unfortunately, the difficulty in lowering energy consumption is that millions of people’s livelihoods are entrenched in the exact opposite.

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