But instead of focusing on how can we increase oil and gas supplies, the Democrats in Congress, sounding increasingly like Hugo Chavez, have been working to reduce supply in the face of constantly rising demand. To wit: they've said no to more exploration, and have been pushing for higher taxes on oil companies to recoup what they call "excess profits." Such policies make us more dependent on foreign oil while throttling supply, which in turn has contributed to high prices at the pump.
There's nothing wrong with the price of gasoline that a few dozen new refineries cannot cure, but we haven't built new refineries for several decades, and that's why gasoline inventories have been playing a costly, precarious game of catch-up with demand. Just the threat of a storm in the Gulf that might shut down a few rigs has traders bidding the price of limited supplies higher and higher.
There's a third source of cheaper energy that would help make us less dependent on foreign oil: nuclear power. But here again the people who run Congress continue to pander to environmentalists, who have set up one obstacle after another to prevent additional plants from being built.
France gets most of its energy needs from nuclear power. So can we. The Nuclear Energy Institute says America's 104 nuclear power plants are responsible for 54 percent of the electric sector's voluntary greenhouse-gas reductions. We need to build more nuclear plants in order to provide an inexhaustible supply of electric power for centuries to come. Power companies have filed permits to build such plants in Virginia, Texas, North and South Carolina, Maryland, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, but, here again, they face huge obstacles from environmentalists, and it could take years to overcome the legal and political hurdles placed in their way.
Meanwhile, America is being taken to the cleaners by needlessly high oil and gas prices caused by congressional ignorance and inability to come to grips with the only viable solution: Start boosting energy supplies and the cost to consumers will come down.
A do-nothing Congress that has been AWOL on energy could prove a very effective issue for the Republicans in this election year. I can see TV ads, reminiscent of the GOP ads in the 1980s, saying, "The Democrats are out of gas" as summer prices shoot through the roof and an angry electorate decides to throw the bums out.
Sadly, John McCain is opposed to drilling in ANWR, but that shouldn't stop the House and Senate Republicans from making this their issue in the congressional elections.
Indeed, Robert Samuelson has given the GOP its strongest rallying cry and its best bumper sticker for the fall campaign: "Start drilling."
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