Pelosi's Drilling Ruse
The sudden pro-drilling makeover of the Pelosi Democrats has always had an air -- a gale, really -- of election-year convenience, and the House proved it Tuesday by passing an energy bill that would put any bunko man to shame. This confidence trick won't expand domestic oil-and-gas supplies even a bit.
The ruse began late Monday night, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a 290-page bill and then waved it through less than 24 hours later, 236-189. "Closed" rules prohibited the GOP from offering alternatives. The real game was to give vulnerable Democrats political cover by letting them vote for more offshore drilling -- while also making more drilling all but impossible, thus appeasing the party's green wing.
Sure enough, only 13 Democrats voted against the bill; even antidrilling purists like Ed Markey found something to like. Nearly all the members of the Blue Dog coalition, who had been on the cusp of revolt this summer because of Mrs. Pelosi's obstructionism, also fell in line. They now have their campaign cover story.
The bill would allow exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf, but only in waters 100 or more miles out in the Atlantic and Pacific. The farthest reaches of the OCS contain resources, but undersea geography and deep water make development very -- if not prohibitively -- expensive. Areas closer to land are far richer and easier to access. Conveniently, Mrs. Pelosi's bill imposes a 50-mile "buffer zone" around the country.
Coastal states could pass laws to allow drilling between 50 and 100 miles. However, the bill bars revenue sharing with adjacent states. Democrats know how important such a booster shot could be for state budgets, so they took away the incentive for states to opt in and approve new drilling. The bill also retains a leasing ban in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which has the most immediate potential in the lower 48. Oil-and-gas reserves are known to be abundant, production systems are nearby in Texas and Louisiana, and even the Senate's paltry "gang of 10" proposal would liberate the Gulf.
Less shocking is that the bill orders up more than $18 billion in pork for "renewable" energy -- and it comes with the works. There are the usual huge subsidies for wind and solar power, and even "marine renewables" (whale oil?). These are "paid for" by raising taxes on the major American oil companies, which would also be forced to retroactively "renegotiate" the terms of their late-1990s lease contracts in the Gulf of Mexico. If that wealth transfer isn't a big enough crutch for the alternatives, there's also a mandate that utilities generate 15% of their electricity from such sources by 2020. In other words, taxpayers get charged twice -- once to pay for Congress's green welfare program, and again when they pay their electric bill.
Then there's a tax credit of up to $5,000 for anyone who buys a plug-in electric car, though normal drivers will still be able to fill up with "fuel from America's heartland," aka the fiasco known as corn ethanol. Congress may be strapped for dollars, but Members found a few million under the mattress to encourage commuters to bike to work or maybe take the "vanpool pilot program." Some $10 million goes to "increasing sustainable low-income community development," while Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are told to favor "energy-efficient mortgages."
As Congress runs down the clock for this term, the likelihood of reaching some grand pre-election energy bargain is vanishing fast. The House bill shows that the Pelosi Democrats simply aren't serious about expanding domestic energy supplies.
[The Wall Street Journal]