Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thank Chuck Schumer For Pricey Gas

For every 20 gallons of gas we buy, New York Senator Chuck Schumer is complicit in raising the price ten dollars, according to George Will.

When President George Bush travelled to Saudi Arabia last month, Schumer imperiously demanded that we halt all arms sales to Saudi Arabia until that country increases oil production by one million barrels a day. Such an increase, Schumer said, would cause the price of gas to drop by fifty cents a gallon almost immediately.

Although it's reassuring that Schumer understands that prices drop when supply increases, his choice of how to increase supply is misguided. Schumer (and many other Democrats) continue to oppose drilling in Alaska and off America's coasts -- even though China and Cuba drill closer to U.S. shores than our government allows our own companies.

That one million barrels daily of increased oil production that Schumer wants from the Saudis could be flowing from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, had Bill Clinton not vetoed production there in 1995. Now Democrats like Schumer have the nerve to complain that even drilling in Alaska won't help matters because of the time lag between sinking the first drill and refining the first gallon of gas.

We are the third largest oil producer in the world, behind the Saudis and the Russians; why aren't we tapping those resources with which we've been so abundantly blessed?

Schumer makes demands of other countries to increase production, and yet he prevents us from buying American under the guise of environmentalism. This, even though foreign countries drill 60 miles from the Florida coast. Schumer's underlying assumption appears to be that the Chinese will be better stewards of our coastlines than will American companies.

Will tells those New Yorkers who elected Schumer that they are getting the gas prices they deserve, as a direct result of his voting record. "Also disqualified from complaining are all voters who sent to Washington senators and representatives who have voted to keep ANWR's oil in the ground and who voted to put 85 percent of America's offshore territory off-limits to drilling," according to Will.

Kentuckians, in contrast, have elected U.S. Senators who understand that we must explore, extract and refine as much of our own energy as possible. That includes converting coal to clean liquid fuels -- an industry that can increase energy independence, and provide jobs and tax revenue for Kentucky. This is an area in which Kentucky can lead not only our country but the world.

Democrats like to talk about conservation, and decreasing demand is certainly part of the equation. Here's the beauty of the marketplace: consumers are smart enough to change their buying habits when prices increase sufficiently. As a result, last month the sales for SUVs plummeted 34 percent -- about the same amount that sales for small, fuel-efficient cars increased. Consumers don't need the incentives of tax breaks or the threat of regulation to do what is in their own self-interest. Schumer forgets that the American consumer is smart enough to make a wise choice without him dictating the result.

Americans are also creative and tenacious enough to solve the technological problems that we confront as we seek to become energy independent. Our country pioneered the auto industry; we can lead the way in clean and efficient energy technology as well. The research and development that is required, however, won't happen if we punish companies for doing well by slapping them with "windfall taxes." It's in the oil companies' interest to invest in R&D; they don't need an edict from Chuck Schumer any more than the American consumer does.

The Chuck Schumer effect: a ten dollar surcharge for every 20 gallons of gas we buy. We could honk or give a one-finger salute when we fill up, but it would be more productive to just sign Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell's petition that Congress address all three legs of the stool with an energy policy that encourages not only conservation but exploration and innovation.

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