December 12, 2003
Senate Greases Oil Supply Skids
by Donald G. Mashburn

We common citizens may be freezing in the dark and walking to work before the U.S. Senate sees the light on the nation’s oil production shortfall. In recently scuttling a watered-down energy bill, the Senate helped grease the skids on our declining domestic oil supply.

The senators, so farsighted – and greedy – in giving themselves exorbitant retirement benefits, are ignoring the nation’s oil production deficiencies. If their anti-oil bias continues to control energy policy, our oil supply problem could get so out of kilter that no amount of senatorial hypocrisy and legislative sleight-of-hand can right it.

Despite U.S. Department of Energy figures that show we imported 70 percent of our oil requirements last year, the Senate couldn’t pass the weakened energy bill. Not even the bill’s mandate to increase the amount of ethanol in our gasoline supply – a sop to farm-state senators and farm lobbyists – could save the pork-laden legislation.

Earlier, senators from non-oil states displayed their anti-oil bias by pandering to environmental extremists and other cause-driven special interest groups. They joined in stripping from the bill a provision that would have allowed drilling on some 2,000 acres of the sprawling 19-million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

The relatively small area targeted for drilling lies in a barren and forbidding coastal area of Alaska’s ANWR. Denying the nation an opportunity to tap domestic reserves to alleviate its oil shortage is like refusing to allow planting a rich piece of farmland to food crops when you know the food supply will run out soon.

Why intelligent – they tell us – men and women can’t see where we’re headed on energy is beyond logic. The raw facts are that this country is working its way toward almost total dependence on oil bought largely from Canada, Mexico, Kuwait, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela.

Not a comforting thought, since only Canada can be said to have a politically stable, thriving free market economy.

Saudi Arabia, the largest oil producer, can add production merely by opening valves on oil wells. Russia is trying mightily to ramp up production to maximize dollars flowing into that country. African nations with large oil potential are expanding their oil exploration and production budgets with huge infusions of U.S. dollars.

Even in Iraq, our dollars are being spent to help the Iraqis increase oil production and build a nation we hope will be better than those around them. The efforts to restore Iraqi oil capacity goes on even while some of the fanatical elements of the old Saddam Hussein regime kill our own soldiers on a regular basis.

Middle East instability is something we’ll have to live with for as long as oil is our primary energy source. In the past, our oil supply remained fairly steady, except for the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo. Currently, whenever there’s a hitch in the oil supply, big oil exporters like Russia and Saudi Arabia are happy to make up the loss.

But we can’t always depend on such “friends.” And the Senate’s shortsightedness on the development of domestic oil adds unnecessary burdens to future generations. In spite of their political blather about “children,” liberal senators – mostly Democrats from the Northeast and the Left Coast – are ignoring the future hardships our children and grandchildren will face from fuel shortages and debt.

Only voters can change the disgraceful practice of putting the nation’s welfare below that of the politicians and the special interest groups to which they pander.

It’s high time voters ask the tough – and right – questions of those seeking election to Congress. Questions like, “Do you promise to vote against increased government spending?” And, “Will you vote to develop a small area of ANWR to increase future U.S. oil supplies?”

If they won’t give a straight “Yes” answer to both questions, they don’t deserve to be in Washington working on our payroll and spending our hard-earned tax dollars.