December 16, 2008

No Energy Presents From Inept Congress

by Donald G. Mashburn

Over the past few weeks, the financial markets and U.S. auto manufacturers have been chosen as beneficiaries of massive government bailouts and handouts at taxpayer expense. But no one offered to pump piles of our dollars into the oil companies – yet.

Nor should they. Oil companies don’t need a bailout; their principal need is for government to stop obstructing the development of America’s homeland energy resources.

As this is written, the price of crude oil jumped upward from around $40 a barrel on the news that the oil cartel OPEC is thinking about “serious” cuts in oil production. Just last July, oil was closed a bit under $148 a barrel.

The past summer was a wild one – and painful. Crude oil prices hitting almost $150 a barrel, gasoline at $4.50 a gallon, and jet fuel hitting $6.00 a gallon at some airports. It’s no wonder wholesale inflation was pushed upward at the fastest clip in 34 years.

But nothing got done in Congress that will help our energy situation, or rescue us from the necessity of sending billions of American dollars to foreign countries. There’s little to be optimistic about in the sorry record of this Congress, and even less that consumers and taxpayers can find comfort in.

One would think that seeing the interrelationships of high oil prices, inflation, and the flow of our dollars out of the country to foreign countries would be enough to trigger some common sense legislative efforts. But common sense and this Congress are seldom seen keeping company with one another – and never, when Congress is in session.

Efforts at an effective energy bill have been feeble, with only half-hearted fake “concessions,” such as the congressional acceptance of offshore drilling, but only in a band between 50 and 100 miles from shore – beyond the area where most of the known and prospective reserves lie.

Some members from both sides of the political aisle labeled the legislation a bad bill. The Democratic leadership heads were openly hostile and non-apologetic about not giving anything worthwhile to the oil industry. To some questions about the restrictions, she curtly replied, “We have a planet to save.”

Well, yes …, but a planet inhabited by humans, most of who have to make a living. And many, to make a living, have to drive vehicles to get to work, or to deliver goods and people to where they are needed.

But all those factors seem to make no difference to the anti-oil liberals in Congress, and through all their rhetoric about energy, it’s plain that the Lefties in Congress care little – or perhaps they just don’t know – about what it takes to run engines, industrial machinery, pumps for everything from milk to water, and generators of electricity.

They like to tout alternative forms of energy, sure. But they obviously don’t understand the limitations the current technologies. This inept Congress doesn’t realize, or simply ignores, the fact that we probably can’t expect more than perhaps three to five percent net gain in energy from all the ethanol mandates subsidized by U.S. taxpayer dollars. And they’ve ignored the risks to all citizens from air pollution and health problems from the burning of ethanol.

Congress and their staffs, simply stated, probably have neither the technical knowledge to deal with alternative fuel technologies nor the problems associated with them.

Biofuels can’t be expected to produce more than five to 10 percent of our fuel needs, even after perhaps twenty years, and with the known processes working at maximum efficiency.

Moreover, of great concern is that diverting huge amounts of productive farmland to crops for biofuels would result in higher food costs, and ultimately, possibly shortages of foodstuffs.

With vast oil reserves being senselessly closed off from development in Alaska and off our shores, it would be downright stupid to burn up our foodstuffs as fuel for automotive and industrial uses.

Politicians, in general, and This Congress in particular, aren’t known for either clarity of vision or deep thinking on the future impact of their actions when they’re promoting their agendas or catering to special interests that help them get reelected.

Now that oil prices are down – for now – this Congress is all heated up with bailouts running into trillions of dollars for the financial, insurance and auto companies.

But this Christmas, there won’t be any energy presents for the common folks from this inept Congress. Not even a lump of coal.