Gasoline Price War hits the Senate

YouTube — the instant internet video service — has played an odd role in the 2008 campaign. First — thanks to CNN — it provided cheesy snowmen to question Democrats in one primary debate. Now, thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), YouTube has become a news service.

Last week, the dour Reid faced a Fox News camera and said, “The one thing we fail to talk about is those costs that you don’t see on the bottom line. Coal makes us sick. Oil makes us sick. It’s global warming. It’s ruining our country. It’s ruining our world. We’ve got to stop using fossil fuels."

Republicans put that video on YouTube and it became an instant hit, garnering over 400,000 views by July 4.

Reid was voicing the Democrats’ view that Americans — regardless of what it will cost each of us — have to wean themselves off the oil addiction. They are trapped, Al Gore cultists to the bone, unable to address the most obvious of facts.

America’s, like it or not, is an oil-based economy. People who drive, fly and ship by truck are the basis for our commerce. Without the ability to drive, fly and ship we cannot buy and sell goods and services.

Reid’s timing couldn’t have been worse. Most Americans now pay over $4 per gallon, and the price is rising almost daily. Airlines are — once again — facing bankruptcy and the cost of fuel is driving up the price of every kind of goods and services.

Neither the President nor the Democratic Congressional leadership is doing anything to bring the price of gasoline down now, before the election. Politicians seem to be immune to reason. They’re talking about things that may — not will — happen decades from now. If we began today, and bent all our attention, spent every dime we have on it to the exclusion of all else, we’d not be able to “stop using fossil fuels” for fifty years or more.

The Democrats seem impervious to the facts. There is no cost-effective way to “stop using fossil fuels” in an economy that is completely dependent upon that use. Even if there were, the burden of gasoline costs on our economy demands that effective action be taken now to drive that price down. Reid and others chant the mantra that “you can’t drill your way out of this problem.” We — and the OPEC cartel — have drilled our way into it. Why can’t we drill our way out, at least to buy enough time to figure out a long-term solution?

Because the environmentalists would be unhappy. Their contentment is more important to Reid and the other Dems than the economic survival of the American voter. But there is an alternative.

Inspired, perhaps, by Newt Gingrich’s “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” petition, one group — led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) — is trying to do something about the price of gasoline right now.

McConnell — joined by 42 Senate Republicans — introduced the “Gas Price Reduction Act of 2008” on June 26. The bill — which Reid has so far refused a vote — would open up 14 billion barrels of oil in the Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling at the option of the states.

More than three times the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia are embedded in Western states’ oil shale, estimated at 800 billion to 2 trillion barrels of recoverable oil. The Gas Price Reduction Act also lifts the Congressionally-imposed moratorium on exploration and development of this huge oil reserve.

McConnell’s bill won’t result in immediate oil production, but it could have an immediate impact, driving down speculators’ effect on oil prices.

Mr. McConnell told me, “The goal here was to have a narrowly-targeted proposal that could do something in the near term and reach out to our Democratic friends, some of whom are open to some of the suggestions that we’re making here today. So the idea is not a partisan check the box exercise, but an actual accomplishment.”

Instead of burdening the economy, as the Democrats’ approach does, the McConnell bill would provide an immense benefit and not just in the supply of oil reaching American markets. Federal and state revenues would gain a huge windfall from the bill. Fifty percent of the tax revenues would go into federal coffers, 37.5% to the states. Only Al Gore Democrats such as Harry Reid and Barack Obama would object to that. Obama, answering a question from CNBC’s John Harwood last month on whether high gasoline prices would benefit us, said “I think I would have preferred a gradual adjustment.” A more stealthy rise, so consumers wouldn’t blame those in Congress who are responsible for blocking access to American oil.

The average price of gasoline has risen more than $1.70/gallon since the Democrats took control of Congress last year. They apparently believe the price rise is a good idea. Answering a question on Fox News Sunday last month, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) said, ““Well, it certainly forces some conservation for people that can’t afford to fill their tank.”

Democrats have voted three times against increased oil production in the last year. They are content with rising prices. Their economic policy doesn’t accommodate the simple fact that every increase in gasoline prices equates to a pay cut for every working man and woman. Every American family pays the price in a lower standard of living.

On July 6, OPEC chief Chakib Khelil told an Algerian news service that the price of oil will continue to rise because of the falling value of the US dollar. Before the November election, oil prices will likely top $150/barrel. Gasoline may top $5/gallon, driving voters from disgruntlement to deep-seated anger at all in government who have sat on their hands while the gas price crisis worsens.

Later this week, McConnell will try to move his bill for a floor vote, and Reid will almost certainly block him. Next week, the battle will escalate.

McConnell and the group supporting his bill have a unique political weapon in hand. They have legislation that will benefit each and every American in a tangible way, perhaps in time for the election. All the voters Barack Obama has had trouble reaching — hourly workers, the middle class families working toward prosperity — are most affected by the rising price of gasoline. If McConnell can get past the liberal media, who will ignore the bill, and reach those voters he may be able to deprive the Democrats of the momentum they have going into November.

The price of a gallon of gas is one of those issues that reach across party lines. It differentiates the liberal elites who want society to run on wind power from the average American who cannot believe that a tank of gas for his Chevy Impala costs more than he was used to paying for a week’s groceries only a couple of years ago. It’s an issue that can defeat not only Barack Obama but any of the Democrats who block McConnell’s bill.

And it’s an issue that Republican Party leader John McCain can seize. McCain has said he’d “reconsider” the idea of offshore drilling, and now he can. If Sen. McCain joins vocally with McConnell, pushing the bill and chastising the Democratic leaders for blocking it, every American who fuels his car or truck will also be fueling his anger at a Democratic Congress that is content to let America strangle on the cost of gasoline.

Congress is still registering approval ratings around 19%, far lower than the most unpopular president in memory. George Bush is at about 30%. John McCain appears, at heart, to be a populist. Barack Obama is nothing if not an elitist. America’s elite has sworn allegiance to the global warming cult, as Harry Reid’s words last week prove beyond doubt.

McCain — who is not a cosponsor of McConnell’s bill but has indicated he would vote for it — needs to do a lot more. If McCain channels the average voter’s anger at rising gasoline prices into anger at the Democrats’ opposition to doing anything about it, he could create a momentum toward November that would carry him into the White House, and many other Republicans over the Bush hurdle and into the House and Senate.

This is an opportunity that won’t likely be matched by anything else between now and the election. It’s McCain’s to seize, or let slip


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