Brian McNicoll

Of all the absolutely mindless things coming out of Washington these days, it’s hard for me to imagine anything more mindless than the Obama administration’s thinking on energy policy.

His energy secretary has said he thinks we’d all be better off if gas cost $7 per gallon. They’ve used the BP oil spill, whose lasting environmental impact seems to be minimal, as an excuse to end all deepwater drilling and virtually all other drilling. This has crippled the economies of oil-dependent states, particularly those along the Gulf Coast.

And now, President Obama wants to raise taxes on oil and gas exploration firms. He calls it “closing a loophole.” In fact, as The Heritage Foundation points out in a recent piece, it is a tax hike targeted exclusively to the oil and gas exploration industry.

The president should be running, not walking, in the opposite direction. He should shed the social engineers in his midst, face reality and dramatically expand domestic energy production. It will bring down prices, put Americans back to work on real jobs with good pay and improve our energy security in a variety of ways.

He should open exploration on all three coasts as well as in Alaska. He should approve the XL pipeline from Canada and clear the way for innovative exploration, such as fracking. He should signal the world we are serious about meeting our own needs – fiscally and energy-wise.

Because, let’s face it: Americans don’t want what the extreme lefty green is selling, and it never really has.

We want to drive. That’s why we have almost 300 million registered vehicles … or nearly one for every man, woman and child in the country, but only about 8 percent of our increasingly scarce workforce commutes by any means other than cars – and a fifth of those are in the New York City area.

We want to make the decisions about when we leave, when we arrive, what route we take, what music we listen to and with whom we travel. We have 1,000 channels on cable and hundreds of brands of toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo, tomato sauce, and pasta to choose from. But our liberal overlords think they should choose how we travel, when we arrive, how late we can stay, and where we have to sit on the train.

Two weeks ago, liberals in Virginia went into a tizzy when the state’s commissioner of transportation announced he had authorized a study to assess the need (obvious) and possible routes for an outer Beltway. If this happens, they say, it will create sprawl. The Washington area has 5 million people in it, but only 660,000 live in the city. The creation of sprawl already has occurred.

And what exactly is the problem with further sprawl? Not everyone needs to live in or near the core. The largest cluster of office space between Atlanta and New York is in Tysons Corner, Va., 20 miles from Washington’s core. Spider patterns – suburb to suburb – now involve more commuters than suburb-to-core patterns.

Moreover, some people want a yard. They want chain restaurants in a shiny new town center at the front of their development. They will “experience” the city from time to time, but they are quite satisfied to remain near it – benefitting from it but rarely actually gracing its streets. This is good. This generates growth, healthy schools, safe, successful children, real communities.

They can’t figure out what’s so smart about smart growth. It’s definitely for some people; mostly those without kids, cars or the urge to garden. Smart growth involves stacking development on top of transportation nodes – think high rises at the Metro station. If that’s what you’re for, more power to you. But if it’s not, why should those who live on top of the Metro station get to dictate how others travel?

That’s what is at stake here – some people arrogantly abrogating to themselves the right to determine how others should live. They think if they chose something, it must be the right choice for everyone. They’re that smart. Just ask them.

They also think if they make it hard enough to drive, if they build enough hassle and cost into the experience, others will simply give up and join them on the bus/train. Note that the car people don’t try to pressure the bus/train people to adopt their lifestyle choices.

But the fact remains: by sticking their heads in the sand on energy policy, these Americans will not make our need for energy go away. If we don’t drill in the Gulf, China will – and they are. If we don’t build the pipeline to bring tar sands from Canada, that fuel will go elsewhere.

If we artificially tax ourselves into penury in the name of “encouraging energy conservation,” we will deserve to be the second-rate nation we certainly will become.


Brian McNicoll

Brian McNicoll is a conservative columnist and freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va.