July 25, 2006
Editorial-New York Times
Drain America First
Congress’s default response to the nation’s manifest energy problems is to increase supply, while doing nothing to reduce demand. Earlier this year, the House rebuffed a modest effort to increase fuel economy standards while approving a bill whose main purpose is to end a long-standing federal moratorium on drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf. In similar spirit, the Senate today will take up a bill to open eight million more acres of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling.
The Senate measure is narrower and less mischievous than the House bill. Yet it, too, is aimed exclusively at increasing production.
This is mind-boggling. The bill’s stated purpose is to reduce fuel prices. But while the gulf may hold enough natural gas to affect the price of that commodity, the same cannot be said of oil. No matter where it looks, a country that consumes one-quarter of the world’s oil supply while holding only 3 percent of the reserves will never be able to drill its way to lower oil prices, much less oil independence.
A small bipartisan group of senators — led by Richard Lugar, a Republican, and Jeff Bingaman and Barack Obama, both Democrats — will try to correct the bill’s bias toward production by adding an amendment that would improve fuel efficiency for cars and light trucks.
The amendment has been carefully drawn to satisfy objections from the automakers and thus end the sterile impasse over fuel standards. But so great is Congress’s appetite for the quick fix that neither this nor any other amendment that seeks a more rational approach is likely to see the light of day. The betting now is that Senate leaders will try every trick in the book to ensure the bill’s unobstructed passage.
This may be good parliamentary strategy. But it will produce a terribly one-sided energy policy.