President's Offshore Drilling Proposal is All Fluff, No Substance

Republicans, don’t be fooled: the President’s proposal on offshore drilling will not mean more jobs, more energy, and less imported oil.  If it’s accepted, it certainly will mean more dependence on foreign oil, more taxes, and fewer jobs. 

The proposal is clearly designed to curry favor with Republicans, and even many Democrats, who remain staunchly opposed to his global warming cap-and-trade legislation.  As Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman attempt to craft a cap-and-trade “compromise,” President Obama seems convinced that a less than half-hearted energy plan will win him votes.  But the President hasn’t offered anything that’s worth accepting the largest tax increase in American history.

As the Institute for Energy Research (IER) has noted, the President’s policy “is not a step forward, but a huge leap backward.”  IER explained that, prior to Obama’s announcement, the vast majority of areas in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) “were open for business.”  But that is no longer the case. 

For one, the President paid lip service to increased energy development in the Eastern Gulf, but he must obtain congressional approval to open it.  There’s no sign he will seek it.  He also talked about development in the Southern Atlantic, but he only proposed to study it.  Then he announced that he would delay development off Virginia’s coast, and, what’s more, his Administration will lock up large offshore resources in Alaska. 

And don’t forget that President Obama’s FY 2011 budget imposes $36 billion in new taxes on the oil and gas industry.  According to IER, this “will discourage domestic production, especially in areas like the Southern Atlantic that have little to no existing infrastructure.”

With all of this, plus empty rhetorical support from President Obama on nuclear power, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) hopes to win over Republicans to the cap-and-trade bill he’s writing with Senators Kerry and Lieberman.  Yet there’s a raw deal shaping up: Republicans would get essentially nothing in the way of more domestic energy production in exchange for a massive energy tax that will harm consumers, destroy jobs and weaken our energy security.

The public is rightly skeptical of this effort — and all others like it.  After the health care fiasco, the public simply won’t tolerate another venture to reorganize a significant portion of the American economy.   And they clearly don’t like cap-and-trade.  But cap and trade remains the essence of the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill. And, it could be even worse: early outlines of the bill include a gas tax. With gas prices on the rise, and the onset of the summer driving season fast approaching, it is hard to see any United States Senator voting to increase the price of gas the pump.
There remain many more questions that can only be answered when the bill is publicly released. Expect the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill to debut on Earth Day.  The Senators will try to adorn the bill with provisions that create the appearance of promoting and encouraging more domestic energy.  But if President Obama’s proposal is any guide, they won’t.  In the end, attempts to disguise the largest tax increase in American history will fail.