An AP story yesterday by Stephen Ohlemacher detailed some of the items Barack Obama will quickly adopt once his takes the oath of office in January. Not surprisingly, a number of items which have ping-ponged back and forth between Republican and Democrat administrations over the last two decades will be brought back online once Obama takes office, such as embryonic stem cell research and abortion funding.
The item that brought up my blood pressure slightly (because I’m irked but certainly not surprised) is where Obama will shelve a Bush Administration plan to open 360,000 acres in Utah to oil exploration and drilling. (For sake of comparison, the area would be roughly 24 miles square, or, for Midwest natives like me that’s the approximate area of sixteen townships.) It’s a probable precursor to President-elect Obama reinstating the offshore drilling ban President Bush lifted last summer unless the Democrat-controlled Congress beats him to it by restarting their ban which was allowed to expire in October – this may occur in the lame-duck session Democrats want in order to pass yet another economic stimulus package.
Just because oil has backed far off its historic per-barrel price from this summer is no reason to abandon the “drill here, drill now, pay less” mantra. Obviously the domestic oil producers hadn’t placed any major exploration in motion on areas previously off-limits because of the prospect of the ban being reapplied. Instead, their search for cheaper and more easily accessible product will again lead outside our borders and America will see its share of domestic vs. foreign oil consumption decrease below the approximate 1/3 slice domestic oil holds now. While Obama spoke in August about possibly keeping the prospect of offshore drilling on the table in return for alternative-energy investment and stricter CAFE standards, at least one analyst dismissed that proposal as “total lip service.”
Also noted in that Bloomberg.com story by Daniel Whitten was the looming prospect of a windfall profits tax on oil companies; considering the drilling restrictions and the likelihood of an Obama presidency imposing a tax for simply selling a product Americans desire the next four years probably will be a minefield for an industry which employs over 1.5 million Americans. Triggered by oil prices exceeding $80 a barrel in the Obama plan, any supply shock could push prices back over the windfall profit threshold.
The question then becomes not if but when will the price at the pump edge back upward toward the $4 a gallon we were hammered with over the summer. Regardless of the hype or the market gaming the federal government has tried to achieve at an ever-accelerating pace since Democrats regained control of Congress in the 2006 elections, for the foreseeable future America is going to transport itself via the automobile, and those cars will need gasoline to power them.
Again the question is worth asking: why should we not be able to recover resources which are useful to us, can be extracted in an environmentally sound manner, and allow Americans the freedom to transport themselves and their goods at reasonable convenience and cost? We seem to be trading proven energy producers like coal, oil, and natural gas for the schemes of creating the electricity we need through vast arrays of solar panels, windmills, or other so-called “green” sources. Yes, they do have a place and someday the technology will bring down their price point to make these sources competitive for large-scale use. I’m all for that occurring but not with my tax dollars making up the difference.
Switchgrass isn’t going to fill up my gas tank the next time I stop at the station. While it’s not a right to have gas be inexpensive, the incoming Obama Administration is likely to forsake the interests of the middle-class Americans it purports to cater to in order to appease the radical environmentalists and alternative energy rent-seekers.
Thinking Americans need to make their voices heard. Let’s keep oil drilling unabated and on the table.