Here we go again: Gasoline prices are dancing at or above $4 per gallon, and politicians on both sides of the aisle are dusting off tried-and-true gimmicks for politicizing the issue, pointing fingers, and doing their utmost to avoid squarely facing up to the root cause of the problem – oil dependence is risky and getting more so.
This is not what good government folks mean when they call for bipartisanship.
The Democrats, self-proclaimed champions of the little guy, are going after greedy speculators, conniving hedge fund operators, and other financial sharks determined to rob said little guy blind, so we’re told. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has called for empaneling a federal grand jury to hurl subpoenas at the suits on Wall Street. Unfortunately, Blumenthal is treating a symptom and sending the patient home to die.
The Republicans, self-proclaimed champions of the little guy, are no better, with their strident pushing of drill-till-we-drop legislation that would do nothing to bring down gasoline prices in the short term and do a great deal to perpetuate America’s dangerous oil dependence in the long term. While Republicans like House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) give lip service to diversifying America’s energy menu away from oil, their hearts are not in it, which suits the House of Saud to a tee.
A narrative that the drill-everywhere crowd is pushing is that if the federal government would just send the oil companies a “come on down” invitation to drill all oil fields under federal ownership, happy cheap gas days would be here again. Recently, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) went so far as to claim that 95 percent of U.S. fossil fuel resources are locked up from development.
An outlandish claim, to be sure, but here’s the salient issue that Vitter and the rest of the drill-everywheres do not dwell on – the faster we and the rest of the world deplete cheap-and-easy oil, the more quickly we will be forced to tap expensive-and-hard oil in ultra-deepwater and polar regions, and the low-grade stuff like kerogen, a wannabe oil colloquially called “oil shale” that is not economical today because of high capital and production costs.
High-cost fields require high prices to go into production. Sure, there might be 800 billion barrels of kerogen in the Rockies. If getting the goop out of the ground and turning it into usable fuels requires sticker-shock fuel prices, would there be enough demand to make production pay?
These are the long-term issues that get buried when politicians like Blumenthal and Hastings tout hand-waving gimmicks to grab headlines and score transient political points. Rational strategies that will help us navigate our way to a less risky energy future get lost in the shouting.