WASHINGTON -- The other night, when House Democrats appeared to reverse their long-standing ban on offshore oil drilling, the electorate was hoodwinked again. At least, the Democratic leadership hoped the electorate was hoodwinked.
In August, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was beginning to feel the heat from a citizenry angered by high energy prices, particularly high gasoline prices. Republicans were clamoring for an expansion in drilling. The voters agreed. Thus, the speaker relented and notified endangered House Democrats with fragile electoral margins that they could publicly endorse offshore drilling. Her fallback position was that, midst the clamor for drilling, she simply would not allow a drilling bill to come up for a vote on the House floor. Her environmental allies would be placated. Democrats uneasily holding on to seats in otherwise conservative districts would be placated. And the electorate would be duped.
Unfortunately, the electorate in this time of exorbitant oil prices is not deceived so easily. Republicans recognize expanded drilling for oil is a powerful issue working for them in this election year. Voters paying record-high oil prices in a country where long drives to work are often mandatory favor expanded oil drilling. Speaker Pelosi's ruse was endangering too many of her Democratic colleagues. Thus, she resorted to plan B. The other night, she relented and allowed a drilling bill to come to the floor for a vote. Her Democrats favored it. Republicans generally opposed it.
Ostensibly, the bill will allow drilling as close to our shores as 50 miles in the Atlantic and the Pacific. What is more, it supposedly will finance development of alternative energy sources. But through all the shenanigans, Pelosi's bill will not bring us more oil for a reason that her environmental allies understand perfectly well. Thus, in the aftermath of its passage, as marginal Democrats breathed relief for their endangered seats, few environmentalists were heard complaining.
They know what Pelosi knows. Further oil drilling will be delayed in the courts for years to come. That has been ensured by the fact that such organizations as the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, and something called Earthjustice (I am told it is basically a nudist outfit with a few butterfly collectors thrown in, possibly nude butterfly collectors) already have filed hundreds of lawsuits to block further drilling.
In the past when the Democratic leadership complained that additional offshore drilling would not produce more domestic oil, they knew whereof they spoke. Their allies in the environmental movement have lawsuits in place that simply will stop further drilling.