Last Wednesday, conservatives held coast-to-coast "TEA parties" designed to send the message to Washington and state governments that the partiers feel "taxed enough already." The exercise struck me as more than a little out of touch with the political realities of President Barack Obama's America. The next day, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar held a public hearing in San Francisco on a proposal by the George W. Bush administration to sell federal leases to drill for oil and gas off the California coast. The hearing became the Left Coast equivalent of the right-wing TEA party.
The only difference is that the overwhelmingly anti-drilling crowd was in la-la land on the realities of oil instead of taxes. Every one of the elected officials who spoke was an anti-drilling Democrat. Every one seemed out of touch with the realities of the need to increase domestic oil production.
America's in a tough recession. It's in no position to turn down high-paying jobs and tax revenue, not to mention a way to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. Here's a sobering statistic: U.S. imported oil use grew from 24 percent in 1970 to 70 percent last year.
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, I believe, spoke for all the other anti-drilling Democratic politicians -- there were no Republican or pro-oil pols -- when he said that supporting more oil and gas drilling "sends the wrong message."
Message? Americans use more oil than we produce. Doesn't that send the most powerful message of all? And then there's the message sent last September, when the Democratic Congress allowed a moratorium on new offshore drilling to lapse because of high gasoline prices. In July, a Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 51 percent of Californians supported new drilling off the California coast. Less than a year later, California politicians are banking on the fact that voters have short memories, as they argued that more drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf would be bad for California's economy.
Rep. Barbara Lee criticized former President George W. Bush for policies that made America "hostage" to foreign oil, unperturbed by the fact that California gets 45 percent of its oil from foreign countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq.