Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Memo to Senator Bingaman: Start Drilling!

With the President pushing for more drilling in his speech today adding to the public chorus of "Drill here. Drill now. Pay less." members of Congress opposed to drilling are getting it from all sides. Here Ron Arnold, an integral part of CARE’s founding, offers his thoughts on those who oppose drilling, especially Senator Bingaman. Do you agree?

"No Drilling" is not an energy policy

Like many in Congress, New Mexico’s Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman doesn’t get it.

If you tell him, “Good energy policy leads to more supplies of affordable American energy and bad policy leads to less,” his eyes glaze over.

While the public groundswell for more domestic oil drilling grows, Democrats like Sen. Bingaman consistently block American energy for Americans, arguing that it will take at least 10 years to bring more oil into production.

That line is so stale that Tonight Show host Jay Leno freshened it up in a recent monologue: “President Bush has blasted Congress for not allowing oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. Democrats said it wouldn’t do any good because it wouldn’t produce oil for 10 years. That’s the same thing Democrats said 10 years ago.”

The audience laughed bitterly, because some recalled that President Clinton vetoed a 1995 bill to go get that ANWR oil, enough to run America all by itself for at least 10 years and probably twenty.

We would be using it now if it weren’t for politicians like Sen. Bingaman.

Washington Post contributing editor Robert J. Samuelson said, “We’re almost powerless to influence prices today because we didn’t take sensible actions 10 years ago.”

The headline on his column: Start Drilling.

Senator Bingaman won’t allow that. He cites Department of Interior statistics showing that “oil companies are agonizingly slow in developing federal lands that are already open to production,” and “about three-quarters of the all the Federal lands we have leased onshore is not currently producing.”

He insists it’s because oil companies are holding the leases for speculation.

Wrong. It’s his fault, not the oil companies.

Take a peek into the real world: once an oil company submits the highest bid for a drilling lease on federal lands, it takes months – sometimes years – for them to get the actual drilling permit from the federal agency.

Lease? Permit? Consumers having to wait months or years because of leases and permits tied up in red tape?

It’s true. We American consumers have to wait for our own American energy on some foot-dragging bureaucrat.

But it gets worse.

Let’s say you’re the oil company and you finally get your permit. Then, you find out that the agency only lets you explore to see if there’s any oil there when none of the local wildlife are mating or migrating. And bureaucrats are always adding new species you have to watch out for.

Okay, let’s say you find oil and at last you’re ready to drill. Then you get formal protests or lawsuits to stop the drilling because of tangled laws that can stop anything.

Try to schedule an expensive oil rig under those conditions.

You wonder why oil companies are agonizingly slow in getting your energy out of your federal lands?

Who passed all those leasing laws? Who made all those permit regulations? Who built all those roadblocks to speedy energy production?

Politicians like Sen. Bingaman.

The next time you see a chorus of politicians blaming the energy crisis on slow corporations, tell them, “You’d look more believable if you took your foot off America’s brakes.”

Then look them straight in the eye and tell them, "Start drilling."

Ron Arnold, executive vice president, Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1976 to protect individual rights, private property, free markets, and limited government.

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