Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Democrats should let the energy bill go forward

The Hill reports that the Democratic leadership in Congress is sitting on important energy legislation, fearing that Republicans and centrist Democrats would amend the legislation to allow drilling in new areas, including the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and off the coasts of the country.

The Democrats are crowing that they have already forced the Republicans into difficult votes, such as a provision in the existing legislation that energy companies either use their existing federal energy leases or give them up so that they can be used by others (a majority of Republicans took the side of oil companies and opposed this provision). However, Americans who are facing $4 a gallon gasoline and will shortly face huge heating bills will certainly see through this gamesmanship.

The Hill quoted an unnamed Democratic aide as saying, "our strategy on gas prices is 'Drive small cars and wait for the wind.'" In other words, the strategy, such as it is, is to tweak consumption, to hope for a technological fix, and to pray that Americans don't mind high prices in the meantime.

Unfortunately, the policy neglects a full and appropriate supply response. Because of this, it inflicts unnecessary hardship on consumers and the economy as a whole.

A sensible energy policy requires more conservation and greater efficiency but also should include new production from both renewable and non-renewable sources. New drilling won't help immediately and won't cure all of our problems even in the long run, but it is a sensible part of the solution. Moreover, drilling appears to be a necessary political compromise to get other things that the Democrats want and that the country needs.

It's time for the Democratic leadership to end its political games, to act on behalf of the American people, and to bring comprehensive energy legislation to the floor of Congress for a vote.