'Drill, Baby Drill'? Not Hardly
Everything you need to know about President Barack Obama’s feelings regarding fossil fuels was on display at Andrews Air Force Base on Wednesday, when he made the triumphant announcement that the federal government was opening large tracts of ocean to offshore oil drilling.
There our president stood, enthusiastically detailing his plan to help make us energy independent, in front of one of the most lethal machines of war ever conceived by man -- the F-18 Hornet. But this plane was different. In addition to armaments that would put the fear of Allah into our enemies, and a top speed of more than 1100 miles per hour -- nearly twice the speed of sound -- this F-18 is a “Green” Hornet. Near as we can tell, it runs on jet fuel and alfalfa sprouts, or maybe broccoli buds. A real weapon for our time -- modern, deadly, and politically correct.
Now if they can only find a lesbian or transgendered minority female to pilot it, that would be gravy.
I’m sure the Navy wouldn’t sacrifice performance in order to be environmentally fashionable, would they? No matter. Our president had news to make. Sounding for all the world like someone who just experienced a "road to Damascus" moment on energy, Barack Obama embraced offshore drilling for oil and ordered wide swaths of previously pristine ocean open to the depredations of greedy and rapacious oil companies.
Or if you’re not one of Obama’s wacky green supporters, Obama gave the go-ahead for tapping the biggest expansion of energy reserves in history.
Or did he?
In fact, what Obama giveth with one hand, he taketh away with another. Some leases already in motion have been canceled while potentially huge deposits of oil and natural gas are still off-limits, including the entire Pacific coastline of the United States from the Mexican border to Canada. In addition, in order to expand drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the president must get the authorization of Congress. This would have been a snap when gas was $4 a gallon, but is much less a certainty today.
Other leases that had been approved in Alaska have also been canceled for further environmental study. Of course, the president didn’t even bother to mention the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- sacred calving grounds of the porcupine caribou -- which would yield as many barrels of oil as all the areas the president opened for drilling combined. And the slow motion approval process guarantees that I will be retired and getting to and from our little grocery store here in Streator, Illinois, riding a donkey before a drop of that East Coast oil makes it to market.
What is the point of this welcome but ultimately less-than-half measure to expand our domestic oil production? Note the word “drill” used in just about every headline in the media about this story. The president is sending a signal to the American people that he has heard their cries of “drill, baby drill” and has deigned to respond favorably. Citizens will think better of him for it, despite the fact that it will not increase domestic oil production until the president is long out of office and considered an elder statesmen. Perhaps he will have been elected president of the world by then, but if we’re still in Afghanistan I wouldn’t bet on it.
Then there are his political tricksies: a bait-and-switch effort to get Republicans on board his “climate change” express. Since there are GOP members in the Senate who actually want to be taken in by this transparent tomfoolery and vote for some kind of cap-and-trade bill, the likelihood that he can peel off enough Republicans to avoid a filibuster on his energy bill is now pretty good.
Of course, it takes a subtle intelligence to advocate expanding fossil fuel production while passing a law that will destroy the industries responsible for producing it. But Congress does this kind of thing all the time -- national health insurance reform being a recent example -- so the disconnect is only apparent if you choose not to think like a politician.
For the Republicans, this announcement is not good news at all. They will rightly criticize the proposal as too little, too late. But who pays attention to details? The president will be able to come back and point to the GOP being “obstructionist” and hypocrites for not backing their own ideas. “They wanted to drill and when I give them that, they still oppose me,” the president will say. He does this kind of fake exasperation very well, as evidenced by his complaints about the GOP not offering any alternatives on health care when three different plans were sitting in the congressional hopper gathering dust because the Democrats refused even to read them.
Minority Leader John Boehner appeared to play the president’s game by sounding more petulant than usual:
It’s long past time for this administration to stop delaying American energy production off all our shores and start listening to the American people who want an “all of the above” strategy to produce more American energy and create more jobs. ...
Republicans are listening to the American people and have proposed a better solution -- the American Energy Act -- which will lower gas prices, increase American energy production, promote new clean and renewable sources of energy, and encourage greater efficiency and conservation.
Like the GOP’s efforts with health care reform, their energy bill has been languishing at the bottom of the legislative pile for months. No doubt the president and the Democrats will accuse the Republicans of not offering any alternatives and try to ram cap and tax through the senate. On this issue, the GOP is not as united as they were on health care reform, as several senators are working with the Democrats to craft a compromise bill. Whether they will meet with any more success than those Republican senators who huddled with Finance Chairman Max Baucus in trying to draft a health insurance reform bill for many weeks is an open question.
While the president’s allies on the left are wringing their hands over this “concession” to centrists and those Republicans predisposed to vote for cap and trade, they really needn’t worry. There are enough holes in this proposal for offshore drilling that it should be declared an environmental hazard, and a clean-up crew should be dispatched to deal with the mess he’s made of the issue.