I interviewed both White House Communications Director Ed Gillispie and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne this week. I pushed both men on the need to get stand-by leasing of the outer continental shelf under way. Stand-by leasing would award the tracts to oil companies for set terms, conditional only on the action by Congress to remove the ban or allow it to lapse. The bidding process, which is normally managed by the Department of the Interior Minerals Management Service, should be directed by the president to prepare a plan within 30 days on how the areas offshore would newly authorized for leasing would in fact be leased, and on how to include incentives in those leases to get the oil above water and into pipelines much more quickly than normal. The opportunities to expedite new supplies are enormous: Offer a lower royalty rate for oil pumped within two years of the lease date, or extend the lease term as a bonus for early delivery.
There are numerous ways a government acting in an emergency setting would be preparing now to use the authority it was confident that Congress would give them down the road. The president's announcement was just the first step. Now he has to demand the rest of the executive branch devote its time and resources to preparing the bureaucratic ground.
Every day Republican candidates should follow the lead of the president and focus on the Congress-made shortage of domestic oil supplies. We are watching the effects of a Democrat-created oil shock, and Democrats on the Hill --led by Obama-- are very bit as responsible as the OPEC countries for contriving to foist these absurd prices on us when oil sits under the full control of the U.S.
Voters know the score, and they know more oil is better than less oil.
But they won't fall for a political ploy. The offshore and ANWR oil is important. But if it is that important, shouldn't the Bush Administration be doing more than talking about getting to it and blaming Congress for blocking the effort?
Push the point, of course, every day and every way.
But also take every step now that will be necessary later to take advantage of the democrats' surrender to the needs of the American economy when voters' anger peaks.