Oil Price, Rail, and Mass Transit

Paul Weyrich

6/23/2008 9:35:10 AM - Paul Weyrich

There has been much talk of late in Congress about the need to begin drilling our own oil. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL reported a poll which indicates that 57% of Americans now favor drilling and 42% want to keep the oil reserves for future pristine beauty. The poll represents a dramatic shift from radical environmentalism. Despite such, a House of Representatives committee voted against a resolution to permit drilling off U.S. shores. Apparently, with gas over $4 per gallon, Americans are getting the picture. Sure, we can't completely drill our way to energy independence. However, it is becoming clear that Saudi Arabia has the better end of the bargain.

Apparently, we have more oil in one of the locked reserves than that of Saudi Arabia. In turn, we are subsidizing Venezuela. President Hugo Chavez funds leftist guerrillas in neighboring states. Our funds have also enabled the Russians to rail against American defense and foreign policies.

Iran not only wants to harm Americans but has promised that Israel will be destroyed. These nations build weapons with our money and so it goes.

True, we purchase oil from Canada and Mexico but why should we line their pockets when we have our own oil and its extraction would create thousands of domestic high-paying jobs. Senator James R. (Jim) Inhofe, who almost single-handily has exposed the fallacies in the hysteria over global warming, is now the leading proponent of drilling here, drilling now. So what kind of reserves are we looking at? Inhofe says the Outer Continental Shelf would yield 14 billion barrels of oil. ANWR would yield 10 billion barrels. Rocky Mountain Oil Shale in Colorado, Utah and maybe Wyoming would yield two trillion barrels. Now ever since the first oil was extracted from the ground in Pennsylvania in the 1850s to the present, we have used one trillion barrels of oil. Finally, by the preserving of access to Canadian oil sands 179 billion barrels of oil would be available.

This does not include the recently discovered oil reserves in North Dakota. We yet do not have a reliable measure of what is there but some engineers estimate that we are talking about at least 50 to 100 billion barrels of oil. We have been told for years that we will be running out of oil any year. That is utter nonsense.

Other nations also are making major finds. Most of them are not our enemies. Clearly $4 gasoline has begun to change attitudes and even behavior. Transit systems all over the nation are carrying loads not seen since the years immediately following World War II. I was visiting with the Amtrak hierarchy last week. Passenger traffic is dramatically up from a year ago last month. One of the trains has 85% more passengers this year over last. All of the Corridor trains, Washington - New York, New York - Boston, Boston - Portland, Chicago - St. Louis, Milwaukee - Chicago, San Diego - Los Angeles and three other California corridors are all carrying record numbers of passengers.

In fact, Amtrak is running out of equipment. Amtrak has only a small backlog of injured passengers cars which can be repaired and put back into service. Most Amtrak trains need reservations now in order to guarantee seats to passengers. No wonder the Amtrak reauthorization bill has passed both houses with veto-proof majorities. Typically, the George W. Bush Administration was on Capitol Hill lobbying against the bill. Their green eye-shade mentality cannot comprehend what is happening in the countryside.

A Senate-House Conference Committee will iron out differences in the bills. President Bush already has said he would veto the measure. I will be very surprised if his veto were not overridden. The House-passed bill contains two amendments the fate of which is uncertain. One would provide $150 million for each of the next ten years for the Washington Metrorail System. Bush is really against that amendment and he might succeed in getting it knocked out of the bill. But Metrorail is now carrying almost 800,000 passengers per day. The other amendment was pushed by Representative John Mica (R-FL). It would authorize a super high-speed corridor between Washington and New York, reducing the time between those cities from three hours to less than two. A laudable goal but the cost of doing such would be so prohibitive that a new corridor may never see the light of day. Even if gas prices decrease many people would have discovered that they can save money by using the train and may do so in relative comfort. This dramatic turnaround may not just be temporary.