Neil Abercrcombie, the Hawaii Democrat and former college professor who represents Waikiki Beach and its environs in the U.S. House of Representatives, took to the floor June 29 to liken some Americans to the Taliban.
The targets of Abercrombie's ire were not officials at the National Security Agency conducting warrantless wiretaps of suspected terrorists. Nor were they the military personnel running the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
No, Abercrombie, who advocates expanded offshore oil and gas drilling because he believes rising energy prices are killing American jobs in agriculture and manufacturing, directed his anger at anti-drillling environmentalists.
"We are losing our manufacturing base," said Abercrombie. "We are losing our ability to farm, while rich, elite people in this country that support some of these environmental Taliban organizations are out there with the propaganda that is trying to say that some of us that are trying to get to energy independence are the ones that are causing the difficulty.
"Well, let me tell you something," he said. "We are not going to back off on this."
With a tight international oil market and escalating turmoil in the Middle East driving the price of crude toward $80 a barrel -- and with gasoline prices in the United States surging past $3 per gallon -- many Americans will be surprised to learn that current federal law prohibits tapping into massive pools of oil that now sit idly off our shores.
In 1990, the senior President Bush issued an executive order imposing a 10-year ban on new offshore oil and gas drilling leases. In 1998, President Clinton extended that ban until 2012. Language has also been inserted into each year's Interior Department appropriation enforcing the moratorium.
The moratorium has been maintained with broad support from members of Congress who represent certain coastal states, especially Florida and California, where environmentalists adamantly oppose new offshore drilling.
But the moratorium puts an astounding amount of domestic oil off limits to development -- thus artificially inflating the cost of gasoline for American families, while keeping the country more dependent on foreign oil than necessary.
In the energy bill approved last year, Congress mandated that the Interior Department's Mineral Management Service conduct an inventory of oil resources on the Outer Continental Shelf, an area extending 200 miles from our coastline over which the United States has exclusive economic rights.