Pelosi's Energy Stonewall

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    Pelosi's Energy Stonewall


    Wall Street Journal

    Pelosi's Energy Stonewall

    August 1, 2008

    Hell -- otherwise known as Congress -- has officially frozen over. For the first time since the 1950s, Members will skip town today for the August recess without either chamber having passed a single appropriations bill. Then again, Democrats appear ready to sacrifice their whole agenda, even spending, rather than allow new domestic energy production.

    Or even a mere debate about energy. The Democratic leadership is stonewalling any measure that might possibly relax the Congressional ban on offshore drilling. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid know that they would lose if a vote ever came to the floor, and they're desperate to suppress an insurrection among those Democrats who are pragmatic about one of the top economic issues. Behind this whatever-it-takes obstructionism is an ideological commitment to high energy prices. The rulers of the Democratic Party want prices to keep rising.

    A good gauge of the radicalism of their energy blockade is the lowest common denominator of this energy fight: The effort to blame "speculators" for $4 gas was promoted by both Barack Obama and John McCain, as well as nearly everybody else in Washington. Sure enough, the House voted 276-151 on Wednesday for a bill that would have driven oil futures trading overseas.

    But the legislation actually failed to become law -- by design. It needed a two-thirds majority because Speaker Pelosi suspended the rules to prevent Republicans from offering amendments, drilling among them. Ms. Pelosi had decreed that she would not permit a roll-call vote under any circumstances, even if it stopped her own goal of wrecking the U.S. futures market.

    Meanwhile, the Senate is locked down over its own antispeculation bill. Majority Leader Reid briefly agreed to allow four amendments on GOP policy alternatives, but he withdrew the offer after he was subjected to the fury of the environmental lobby and Ms. Pelosi. To prevent a vote on offshore drilling this week, Senate Democrats also let fail a bill providing home heating assistance for the poor. Same thing for tax subsidies for wind and solar energy.

    Other liberal inspirations, including suing OPEC and a windfall profits tax on the oil industry, also ended up in the Congressional dumpster. And of course Democrats long ago shut down the normal budget process in both the Senate and the House to avoid any vote.

    Normally, the spending hiatus would be a useful byproduct of Congressional bickering. But in this case the shutdown is malign neglect. Surging energy prices act like a huge tax increase on the economy, since energy demand is relatively fixed over the short term. The price spike is imposing genuine hardships on middle-income and working-class voters across the country.

    The Democratic leadership isn't oblivious to this man-at-the-pump reality. But Al Gore's vision of the apocalyptic tides of climate change perfectly expresses their mentality: Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid see soaring prices as a public good -- the mechanism that will force energy enlightenment on the U.S. If anything, they think the price of gas is too low. As recently as June, the Senate debated a multitrillion-dollar carbon tax-and-regulation scheme that was designed to boost energy costs. A new version will be a priority in the next Administration.

    If nothing else, this summer's oil drilling stonewall is giving voters an insight into this ideology, which recoils at any oil, natural gas or coal production -- oh, and nuclear besides. That puts 93% of all U.S. energy off limits for expansion. Back in the real world, and barring a cold fusion or other miracle, the U.S. will remain dependent on fossil fuels for decades. A fresh round of domestic oil-and-gas exploration would ease the long-term pressures that supply and demand are exerting on prices, plus bolster energy security.

    And those not bound by anticarbon theology are coming around. Broad margins of the American public -- now even a slim majority of Californians -- favor increasing domestic production. Many Congressional Democrats are working below the radar to craft a compromise that couples drilling with conservation and programs to prop up renewable alternatives.

    But the leadership won't bend even a bit, and so Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid have spent the summer using every parliamentary deception to evade debating the issue that the American public cares most about. Short of cutting off the air conditioning on Capitol Hill, Democrats won't get the message until voters make them -- perhaps in November.

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    Lets hope they get ousted in NOV.

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