Voter Responses to Fuel Costs

Posted: Aug 06, 2008 11:07 AM
Voter Responses to Fuel Costs

When Congress returns after Labor Day the Republican Whip, Representative Roy Blunt (R-MO), will introduce the American Energy Act. He means it to be the definitive program his party should pursue as it faces the general election in a couple of months. The measure has three distinctive parts. First, there is American-made energy. The bill would open deep-water resources. He projects that this will add three million barrels of oil per day as well as 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The bill would open the Arctic coastal plain, which would add one million barrels of oil per day. And it would allow development of the nation's oil shale resources, which could provide an additional 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. And it would cut the red tape so that more refineries could be built. We have not built a new refinery in 30 years.

Secondly, the bill has several provisions providing for conservation and efficiency. It would provide tax incentives for businesses and families which purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles. It would provide a monetary prize for being the first to develop an economically feasible, super-fuel efficient vehicle reaching 100 miles per gallon and provides tax incentives for both homeowners and businesses which improve energy efficiency.

The final section of the bill deals with new and expanding technologies. It would spur the development of alternative fuels through government contracting and the repeal of the Section 526 prohibition against government purchasing of alternative fuels. It would promote coal-to-liquid technologically alternative fuels and would establish a renewable energy trust fund using revenues generated by exploration in the deep ocean and on the Arctic coastal plain. It would permanently extend the tax credit for alternative energy production, including wind, solar and hydrogen. This bill would eliminate barriers to the expansion of emission-free nuclear power production.

For the past couple of years voters have paid little attention to anything the Republicans have said. The view has been that the GOP had its chance for a dozen years and Republicans blew it. Voters pointed to a major Democratic victory this fall. Then along came the energy issue. The Democrats are on the wrong side of energy issues and voters are listening to the Republicans again. Blunt wants the contrast between the parties to be clear.

While the price at the pump has declined somewhat and may decline a bit further it is unlikely that the price of gas will dip far enough so that it is no longer a political issue. In this case some House Republicans consistently have voted for oil and gas development and nuclear power while the House Democratic leadership has been against development. If Blunt has his way everyone in the country will hear about this. And if they do hear about the contrast the huge Democratic gains projected for this fall may not materialize.