What assumptions do congressmen make about the American people? Do they assume that we're dumb or ill-informed about the energy problems we are experiencing? Every time there has been a huge spike in gasoline prices, Congress hauls oil company executives before their committees to accuse them of greed, obscene profits and price-fixing. One federal investigation after another of supposed oil company misconduct turns up nothing to substantiate congressional allegations. Unfortunately, the congressional hearings make front page news and lead the evening television news, but the results of federal investigations that follow are only casually mentioned deep in the body of newspapers and get little or no time on the evening television news. If news media people had an ounce of integrity, they would highlight the federal investigation findings that undermine congressional charges of oil company misconduct and they would question the congressmen who made those charges.
Americans might prefer heroes-and-villains explanations to problems to reality-based explanations. A politically satisfying explanation for today's $4 a gallon price, when it was less than $2 a gallon a couple of years ago, is because oil company executives have all of a sudden become greedy in their pursuit of "obscene" profits. As such, congressmen, as our heroes, should call these greedy men on the carpet and take sanctions against them in the forms of windfall profits tax, price controls and other measures to take away their ill-gotten gains -- never mind the effects of the 1980 windfall profits tax. According to the Congressional Research Service, the 1980 windfall profits tax had the effect of decreasing domestic production by 3 percent to 6 percent, thereby increasing American dependence on foreign oil sources by 8 percent to 16 percent.
You say, "What about the environmental impact?" Contrary to the hysterical claims made by environmental extremists, caribou and other wildlife have expanded and flourished in and around Alaska's Prudhoe Bay, unaffected by the oil and gas development. What's more, Burnett points out that the "two leading environmental groups, the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy, have allowed oil and gas production on several of their most important and unique nature preserves."
The true villain in our having to cough up $60, $70 or $80 to fill our gas tanks is the U.S. Congress caught in the grip of environmental extremists. But if reality is too difficult to swallow, we can continue to blame and support the congressional attack on oil executives, turn food into oil and think of other crackpot "solutions."