When You Fill Up the Tank Thank Congress for High Gas Prices

David Strom

5/30/2008 12:01:00 AM - David Strom

Americans have been treated to a lot of whining by our elected officials about the high cost of oil and gas these days, but as usual the fingers are being pointed by rather than at the guilty parties.

Left-wingers want to have their cake and eat it too, of course: they simultaneously insist that oil is running out, its use is ruining our environment and should stop as soon as possible, and that oil gas should still be cheap at the pump.

It is the evil oil companies, who keep us addicted to oil while reaping their profits off our helpless selves, who are to blame for all our current ills. Americans, however, are blessed to have plaintiff’s attorneys ready to sue the oil companies for causing global warming, Congressmen ready to rake oil executives over the coals for making money, and yet other Congressmen dedicated to keeping pristine the remaining American wilderness that has oil buried underneath.

How stupid do they think we are? How is it possible to simultaneously wean ourselves from oil and the carbon dioxide emissions that stems from it, keep oil cheap and abundant, drill for oil absolutely nowhere, and sue oil companies without hurting consumers? Oh, and don’t forget to slap a “windfall profits” tax on the oil companies just for good measure.

It’s not possible to have all these “good” things together. Instead, we are seeing the consequences of following the anti-oil policies being pushed in Congress. Gas prices have gone through the roof, oil supplies for the future are threatened, and if the lawsuits against “big oil” go through exploration for future supplies will dry up leaving the world with little option but to get poorer over the next few years.

And the unpleasant fact is that a poorer world will be dirtier and less healthy for human beings, and not so great for nature either. Unless we want to concede that the earth would be better off completely without human beings—and just who would judge it so anyway?—then it is time to recognize that both human beings and the earth will be better off the wealthier we become. And for the foreseeable future, that wealthier future will depend upon drilling for oil.

Congress has been standing in the way of that better, wealthier future. By restricting prospecting for and drilling for oil within the United States, Congress has been keeping oil prices higher than they otherwise would be. And while high oil prices will help wean America off of oil eventually, our current experience shows that in the short run they just hurt consumers and help push our economy into a 1970’s-like tailspin that will make Americans less, rather than more environmentally conscious.

Oil prices will only drop if oil supplies can increase, and oil supplies can increase only if oil companies are allowed to drill for oil and be handsomely compensated for extracting and selling it.

Congress should be opening up the continental shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil extraction instead of raking oil company executives over the coals for not selling their product below world market price.

Consumers will benefit only if oil companies can extract, sell, and handsomely profit from the sale of oil that is currently under ground. No amount of complaining by Congressmen can change the laws of economics that makes that so.