Paul  Weyrich

The year was 1967. I was on a private aircraft belonging to an oil company with my boss, the late Senator Gordon L. Allott (R-CO). We were flying to Oklahoma City, where Allott was to address the State GOP Convention. An oil company executive asked me if ever I had seen oil shale. I said I had not. Whereupon he picked up a piece, took out his cigarette lighter, and lit the piece. It burned like high grade coal. The oil company man proceeded to tell me that if oil ever reached $30 a barrel it would be profitable to develop oil shale. Even with inflation oil has exceeded that price so why aren't we developing the trillions of barrels of oil-shale reserves. There is a one word answer to that question: Congress.

I receive mail from folks who tell me they don't vote because there is no difference between the political parties. In some ways they are correct but not when it comes to energy. Representative Roy Blunt (R-MO), House Minority Whip, has presented his colleagues with data which clearly makes the case that in terms of developing oil and natural gas there is a profound difference between the parties, at least in the House of Representatives.

Blunt's figures show that for the past 14 years 91% of House Republicans voted to develop oil at ANWR while 86% of Democrats opposed drilling there. In the conversion of coal to liquid category 97% of House Republicans supported the concept while 78% of Democrats opposed it. Regarding the development of oil shale in Colorado and Utah the level of support among House Republicans was 90% while the level of opposition to the development of oil shale among Democrats was 86%.

When it comes to oil exploration for the Outer Continental Shelf 81% of Republican House Members said yes while 83% of Democrats said no. And look at this figure: 97% of House Republicans want to increase refinery capacity while 96% of Democrats said, no way. Historically, Blunt said, 91% of Republicans have favored development of oil and gas reserves while 86% of Democrats historically have been against oil and gas exploration and development.

Blunt's staff also compared the plans of each of the parties to deal with the skyrocketing price of gasoline. The Democratic plan includes seven investigations of price-gouging, four investigations of speculators, suing OPEC, $20 billion in new taxes against the oil companies. None of these would reduce the cost of gasoline. The only item in their plan which would do so is to stop the oil going to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That would lower the cost of a gallon of gasoline by 5 cents The Republican plan would develop oil in the Continental Shelf and develop it deep in the sea. It would develop oil shale, and it would abolish earmarks to pay for the Federal gas tax holiday. Republicans and Democrats agree on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Taken together these items would reduce the cost of a gallon of gasoline by at least $1.95 and maybe a lot more depending on the productivity of each of the development projects.

What many of us wonder is this: When will the people of the United States say enough is enough and demand of their elected representatives that we develop our own resources? If we did we would not need to import one drop of oil from these ruthless dictators who would like to see us defeated or dead. I love the pristine beauty of nature, too. But we have made so many strides in new technology that we do not have to ruin the environment to explore and develop oil and gas. $4 a gallon doesn't yet seem high enough for a public revolt. What will do it? $5 a gallon? How about $8 to $11, which is what some Europeans are paying already. I hope and pray the revolt comes before it is too late.

Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
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