Sanity on energy policy

Much nonsense has been heard from both presumptive presidential candidates on the topic of energy and gasoline prices. More will probably be forthcoming, as it’s judged politically unwise these days to challenge too directly the suicidal lunacy that holds America can remain prosperous by turning her back on the coal and oil that fast-growing foreign nations will continue to burn for centuries to come.

There was, however, a ray of sunshine Tuesday, as presumptive Republican nominee John McCain finally took enough pity on Americans squeezed by skyrocketing energy costs (which drive up the price of everything hauled by truck, of course) to take a more sensible stance on offshore oil drilling.

“We must embark on a national mission to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil,” Sen. McCain told reporters Monday. Then, in the first of three planned energy policy speeches in Houston Tuesday, Sen. McCain added, “We have untapped oil reserves of at least 21 million barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. … It is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions.”

(Congress placed a moratorium on new offshore drilling in 1981; the ban has been extended by every president since.)

The green extreme immediately attacked the Republican’s reversion to common sense, backing an idea they said would endanger the nation’s “most environmentally sensitive” waters.

“It’s disappointing that Sen. McCain is clinging to the failed energy policies of the past,” sneered Tiernan Sittenfeld of the League of Conservation Voters.

Since those policies — developing and using first coal, then oil and nuclear power — made this the wealthiest and by many measures the environmentally cleanest nation in the world, it would be interesting to know in what way they “failed.”

America’s energy wealth has not so much failed as been abandoned due to superstition. What nation has done better — Madagascar, whose coastal waters are now brown with the topsoil washed from her once lush but now denuded jungle hillsides, as a people virtually without oil or nuclear power were reduced to cutting down all their trees for charcoal?

Democratic nominee-apparent Sen. Barack Obama joined the criticism Tuesday, calling the idea of lifting the offshore drilling ban the wrong answer to out-of-control energy prices. “John McCain’s plan to simply drill our way out of our energy crisis is the same misguided approach backed by President Bush that has failed our families for too long and only serves to benefit the big oil companies,” Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan said.

Again, it’s hard to see how “drilling our way out of our energy crisis” can be called a “failed policy” if we abandoned it in 1981.

And since when are the interests of “the big oil companies” at odds with those of the millions of Americans who own shares of their stocks through our 401(k) plans? What could be more American than trying to get rich selling fellow Americans what they want and need? Mr. Sevugan might as well say it’s “misguided” to provide free or discounted lunches to schoolchildren, since it “only serves to benefit the big agribusiness outfits.”

Not that Sen. McCain offers oil as the sole solution. The Republican would also like to see more nuclear power plants built.

Democrat Obama opposes those, too, of course, insisting we can get our electric bills and gasoline prices down by concentrating on windmills and solar power, with the difference apparently being made up by requiring domestic energy companies to buy fixed percentages of their power from magic fairies and elves in hollow trees.

Sen. McCain’s stance is not entirely new. In 2006, he quite properly backed opening 8 million acres off the coast of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi to offshore drilling.

Nonetheless, Americans pummeled by the high cost of everything can start to breathe a sigh of relief now that one of the presidential contenders has decided to stop going “coo, coo” to the elements of economic infantilism, reversing the position he took during his 2000 presidential campaign and instead taking this firm step in the direction of common sense.

Energy costs are the issue of greatest concern to Americans today. The Democratic focus on new energy sources might make sense if they were speaking of 75-year targets. But turning off the taps to our proven energy sources today is madness — as anyone driving by a gas station can see.

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