Dems Running on Empty

What a difference three years makes: In 2005, I led the charge against a massive global warming cap-and-trade bill. It was a lonely battle with few GOP members willing to join me on the Senate floor to publicly oppose it.

Fast forward to June 2008: Not only was I joined by dozens of GOP Senators, but nearly 30% of the Democratic Senators rebelled against their leadership and opposed the Boxer Climate Tax Bill. In the end, Senator Boxer only had at most 35 Democratic Senators willing to vote for final passage on the largest tax bill in U.S. history. The Boxer Climate Tax Bill was so thoroughly disowned by Democratic Leadership that proponents of climate taxes will now be forced to start from scratch next year.

Republicans were prepared to debate the bill and were ready to offer amendments. But the Democrats did not want to debate, much less vote, on our amendments that were aimed at protecting American families and workers from the devastating economic impacts of this bill.  When faced with the inconvenient truth of the bill’s impact on skyrocketing gas prices, it was Democratic Senators who wanted to see this bill die a quick death.

The Wall Street Journal aptly noted that environmentalists are “stunned that their global warming agenda is in collapse.” The paper added, “The green groups now look as politically intimidating as the skinny kid on the beach who gets sand kicked in his face.” The paper quoted a political analyst, noting that “this issue is starting to feel like the Hillary health care plan.” 

Despite claims that we must “act now” to prevent a climate “crisis,” the Boxer Climate Tax Bill would not have resulted in any “action” whatsoever. The bill, often touted as an "insurance policy" against global warming, would instead have been all economic pain for no climate gain.

And Americans are suspicious of the need for “solutions” to global warming. A Gallup Poll released on Earth Day 2008 revealed that the American public’s concern about man-made global warming has remained unchanged since 1989. According to Gallup, “Despite the enormous attention paid to global warming over the past several years, the average American is in some ways no more worried about it than in years past.”

Just a few days after the embarrassing defeat of the climate bill, the Democrats were at it again. As the price of gas at the pump continued to climb, Democrats were proposing yet another energy tax as part of their “solution” to our energy challenges.  The Democrats’ “no” energy bill would increase taxes by $17 billion for America’s oil and gas producers and increase government bureaucracy.  Their bill does nothing to increase access to America’s extensive oil and natural gas reserves, does nothing for the promotion of nuclear energy, does nothing to increase refinery capacity, does nothing for electricity generation or transmission, and does nothing for the utilization of clean coal. They are attempting to ignore the basic concepts of supply and demand.
A major component of the Democrats’ “no” energy bill would reinstate the Windfall Profits Tax. Democrats want to impose the tax despite the fact that we tried this almost 30 years ago, with disastrous results. In 1980, under President Jimmy Carter, Congress imposed an excise levy on domestic oil production.  According to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the results of Carter’s Windfalls Profits Tax “made the U.S. more dependent upon imported oil.” If the Democrats are successful in enacting their “no” energy bill, they will decrease domestic production and increase America’s oil imports — the exact opposite of what we need to do

Until we explore and develop domestic energy resources and increase domestic refining capacity, the cost of gas at the pump will increase. As America faces mounting energy challenges, now is not the time for politics as usual — now is the time for common sense solutions.

Oil and gas exploration and production are currently prohibited on 85 percent of America’s offshore waters. Among industrialized nations with shorelines, the United States is the only one not actively seeking new offshore oil and gas deposits. Canada allows offshore drilling in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Great Lakes.  Additionally, Cuba is also looking to expand drilling to within 45 miles of parts of Florida and with technology that may be much less environmentally sound than that used by American companies. Exploration and production activities are currently prohibited in the Pacific and Atlantic regions of the Outer Continental Shelf, which hold an estimated 14 billion barrels of oil and 55 trillion cubic feet of gas.  This is equivalent to more than 25 years’ worth of imports from Saudi Arabia.

If President Clinton hadn’t vetoed legislation allowing environmentally sensitive exploration on the Coastal Plain of ANWR ten years ago, today we would have one million additional barrels of oil coming from ANWR each day, which would mean lower gas prices for consumers and more energy security right now. ANWR is estimated to contain 10 billion barrels of oil — about 15 years’ worth of imports from Saudi Arabia.

The climate tax debate and the Democrats’ “no” energy bill provide a stark contrast between those who believe the answer to solving our nation’s energy crisis is to raise taxes, regulate more, and drastically increase the size of the federal bureaucracy, and those of us who believe the path forward should develop and expand America’s domestic resources. Congress must reject the Democrats’ attempts to increase taxes and implement back door price controls.

As my home state of Oklahoma shows, tomorrow’s energy mix must include more natural gas, wind, geothermal and renewable energy, but oil, coal, and nuclear energy — the world’s largest source of emission-free energy — must also be included. Developing and expanding domestic energy will translate into energy security and will ensure stable sources of supply and well-paying jobs for Americans.