In a remarkably short time the public has changed from supporters of environmentalism to advocates of drilling for oil and natural gas in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and/or in the ocean. For the first time since the 1970s liberals in both parties have found themselves responding to significant demands for drilling. Their responses are meant to confuse the electorate in order to turn public opinion back to their position on the environment.
Toward that end liberals have come up with two mantras which we hear on every talk show, in every press conference and in every speech addressing the high cost of gasoline. The first mantra is that it will take at least 10, maybe 30 years before we see a drop of oil coming from the ground at the aforementioned sites. The second mantra is that greedy oil companies already have 86 million acres of leases provided by the Federal Government. They only want more leases to satisfy their greed.
On the first point, correspondent Ken Wood pointed out that Larry Kudlow recently featured on his television show James T. Hackett, President and CEO of Anadarko Petroleum Company. Whereas some liberals are saying it could take 30 years for the oil to be available, Hackett said it would take two or three years, depending upon where the oil was drilled. Indeed, I saw one oil exploration expert on Fox News Channel who said that if the right equipment were available it would take only one year to get the first oil since the oil companies know exactly where the oil is located in the outer Continental Shelf. One oil shale expert told proponents of drilling in the House of Representatives that the first 800 million barrels of oil from shale could be available in two or three years. The remaining estimated two trillion barrels of oil from shale would take longer to have ready because they would be more difficult to extricate. But the initial 800 million barrels would help the U.S. economy.
On the second point, I received two different answers. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who used to be in the oil business, said the reason oil companies are not drilling on the 86 million acres is that there is no substantial oil available on those lands to make drilling economically viable. He said the government only permits exploration on those leased lands, so oil companies have explored them and found that they would produce little. The second answer came from Hackett. He said the Federal Government is, in effect, guilty of fraud. They accept the lease money and the annual rents but have refused to grant permission to drill there. He implied that some oil had been found that would be worthwhile to extract but since they cannot drill the consumer sees no benefits. Either way, to accuse oil companies of greed is an unfounded assertion.
Neither liberal argument can be sustained if pro-drilling forces launch a campaign to educate the public. Thus far they have done an inadequate job explaining the real answers to these leftist fallacies. I am told by people from around the country who respond to my commentaries that Americans do not want to talk about anything other than the high cost of gasoline. Not Iraq. Not healthcare. Not even change, whatever that means. The only topic these days is $4 to $5-per-gallon gasoline.
That being the case, pro-drilling Members of the House and Senate should issue special orders on the chamber floors. They would be seen on prime time television and possibly would be picked up by the mainstream networks. They should hold daily press conferences. They should appear on national talk shows and talk radio every day. Each Senator should appear on local talk radio in his state and each House Member should do the same with talk radio in his district. They should arrange for editorial board meetings with national and local newspapers. They should organize volunteers to go door-to-door to ensure that everyone knows each side of the issue and which position would be best for the American economy and American consumers.
Given the opinion of the electorate and her own contrary ideological position, it is no wonder Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has pulled measures lifting the ban on drilling from the House calendar. My understanding is that the Democratic Majority Whip's count demonstrated that the pro-drilling forces had enough votes to lift the ban. That would be a terrible embarrassment to the anti-drilling forces and the environmentalists.
Since the House and Senate Leadership do not want to help Americans, pro-drilling Representatives and Senators should initiate discharge petitions. Maybe, just maybe, a majority of legislators would be willing to ignore the Majority Leadership. If they can force a vote and pass pro-drilling legislation, President George W. Bush will sign it into law. If the anti-drilling forces triumph in the 2008 elections, which seems likely, it may be too late; for another generation we will be forced to use less oil and gas because of the high cost. We will be voting to make ourselves miserable and poorer unless we act now.