As any driver can tell you, the pain at the pump is pretty acute right now. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. Demand is up (thanks, in part, to an increasing appetite for fuel in China and India), and supply is low.
And if there’s one thing that makes the pain worse, it’s knowing that supply doesn’t have to be this low.
Are the ridiculously high prices we’re paying the fault of the big, bad oil companies? No, the lion’s share of the blame goes to politicians, who have locked away vast amounts of American energy -- both oil and natural gas.
In the 1980s, Congress began restricting more offshore areas from energy exploration -- prohibiting drilling in more and more places around the country. With energy relatively cheap, it was easy to give in to the carping demands of radical environmentalists, who (then as now) exaggerated the impact of drilling and downplayed the benefits.
Then, in 1990, President George H.W. Bush issued a directive restricting new offshore exploration and drilling. President Bill Clinton compounded this error in 1998 by extending the directive to 2012.
Fast forward to 2008, and it’s abundantly clear that we can’t leave huge deposits of energy to remain buried in our own backyard for another four years.
How huge are these deposits, you ask?
The latest estimates from the Interior Department indicate that the off-limits areas contain 19.1 billion barrels of oil and 83.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. According to Ben Lieberman, an energy expert at The Heritage Foundation, that’s about 30 years’ worth of imports from Saudi Arabia -- and enough natural gas to power America’s homes for 17 years.
At a time when you practically need to take out a second mortgage to keep your car in gasoline for a month, it’s insane to keep such restrictions in place. Yet that’s exactly what politicians have been doing for years, even as they harp on the need for “energy independence.” The hypocrisy, even for Washington, is astounding.