One of the biggest problems facing the United States today is energy independence. As Americans, we rely too much on foreign oil and are too much at the mercy of its volatile price spikes. If we could just open up some of our own oil reserves we would be able to become much more self-reliant when it comes to energy and would not have to be bankrolling so many nasty governments in the Middle East. Instead we would be able to focus our foreign policy on places that really need our help rather than being at the beck and call of undemocratic governments like that in Saudi Arabia. This is especially important because the nation is currently facing a grave economic downturn that threatens the livelihoods of tens of millions Americans. The current financial crisis is making it more and more difficult to afford to secure energy supplies from outside of the United States—it is making it more difficult for oil companies to survive and also for shipping companies. So what can we do about this very complicated and difficult situation? President Obama and the Democrats came into office hoping to wean the United States off of foreign oil—well, the solution to their problem is close at hand, and they are likely to be able to get bipartisan help for it. They might be willing to come to a compromise on an issue Republicans feel strongly about. That issue is drilling for oil in offshore, where lots and lots of oil exists just waiting to be exploited by the hardworking men and women of the American oil sector. Offshore oil drilling might be the solution we have been looking so hard for.
The issue of whether or not to drill for oil offshore has been controversial for the last several decades. But never has the need to do so been so pressing. The president himself campaigned on the issue of trying to wean Americans off foreign oil. In that respect drilling offshore will jive with his personal political commitments as it is projected there may be billions of barrels of oil ready to be extracted. This is not such a bitter pill for the Democrats to swallow. Indeed, it is hard to understand why the vast majority of Americans are not behind these efforts
This is a very important issue that could affect millions of lives. This is not simply a political game that should be played out between Republicans and Democrats. The truth is that drilling offshore will create vital economic opportunities for thousands of Americans—jobs that are desperately needed in a country with a rising unemployment rate and facing such a series and unprecedented economic crisis. This crisis has really hit commodity prices, especially oil which was once at an historic high. Now, with oil at its current low price, the American economy as a whole is doing badly. Oil supplied from offshore should be guaranteed for the U.S. oil reserve by a provision in a new bill before congress at a sustainable price—say $55 a barrel. This would secure a reasonable price should the price of oil for some reason shoot up again. That however is unlikely to happen. Most economists believe we are in for a long period of economic instability and deflationary pressures.
What makes this proposal better than many others’ is how little it appears to cost upfront. By simply making it legal to drill offshore, the government will be allowing the private sector to create jobs—instead of relying on publicly funded infrastructure programs. Everyone knows that jobs in the private sector are more dynamic and entrepreneurial than those in the moribund public sector. Better still, not only will other Republicans love this idea, the fact that it costs nothing to the public treasury may be appealing to Democrats who are getting cold feet about how high the stimulus spending is now getting.
A few months ago it seemed like Congress would pass a climate change bill that might have stopped this offshore drilling plan in its tracks. But the financial crisis and the healthcare debate led to policymakers taking “their eye off the ball” when it comes to climate change. This is witnessed in some respect when we look at the problems Obama’s climate change bill is facing. Politically there are big problems for Obama and the Democrats on this bill.
The bill’s future is clouded partly because health care consumes virtually all Barack Obama’s political capital, and partly because Republicans, whatever the polls may say, think cap-and-trade is a political loser for Democrats. When public attention swings to the issue, they can paint it as a stealth tax on energy—and during a recession at that. Republicans who were formerly committed to climate legislation include John McCain, last year’s presidential nominee, as well as Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Richard Lugar of Indiana, a centrist and internationalist who appreciates the importance of climate change to global opinion. All have disengaged from the negotiations.
Things are now so politically toxic in Washington due to the Healthcare debate that this part of the environmental policy will have a great deal of trouble getting passed. Many conservative activists have set their targets on the idea and are claiming that it raises energy taxes on ordinary Americans. However, an offshore drilling bill could easily be a bipartisan affair that is a political winner for both parties.
When pushing for the inclusion of this proposal in a new bill it is important to stress that the impact itself will hardly be significant in terms of endangered species and marine life. If you are a Republican, when speaking to Democrats about this issue, it is important to emphasize how little damage this will do to the environment and how much it will stimulate the American economy. A lot of Americans can be convinced that this is a great idea if only the right information is presented to them—information that will allow them to come to their own conclusions on this vital issue.
You don’t need to drum up support in your own district. This policy is already a no-brainer there where everyone loves the idea and is just waiting for the federal government to act. Studies show 75% of people in your district support it. Your support for drilling has met with approval, but you can leap to the forefront of this debate with an assertive stand on the issue. Additionally, as a more moderate Republican your voice will carry weight with your senate colleagues. Indeed, you may hold the key to making the stimulus package a more bi-partisan affair while simultaneously doing a good thing for your district. Because you are seeking reelection in 2010, your current moves in Washington are being closely scrutinized by potential opponents. Taking a high-profile stand could be the best way to secure re-election. There is no need to go public with this proposal at first—try sounding out fellow moderate Republicans first to see what they say and a few conservative Democrats too. Now might be the time for offshore drilling to finally reveal its true potential and become the economic engine of America!