One Down, One To Go

This morning President Bush rescinded the executive order that has prohibited drilling on the outer continental shelf since 1990. Many of us have wondered why he didn’t do that some time ago. Rescinding the order will not, of course, allow exploration to go forward, since Congress has also banned exploration of the shelf. But what President Bush has done is to focus attention squarely where it belongs: Congressional Democrats are now the only force standing between American consumers and access to vast quantities of petroleum.

Congress’s ban on outer continental shelf exploration expires, and is renewed, annually. It is scheduled to expire in just 78 days, which means that if the Democrats want to continue keeping gas prices high, they will have to act–publicly–just days before November’s election.

The President of the Institute for Energy Research, Thomas Pyle, issued this statement in response to the President’s action this morning:

The federal government has made it illegal to produce taxpayer-owned energy from taxpayer-owned lands for nearly three decades. That’s a fact consumers need to understand as they cope with skyrocketing prices for everything from groceries to gasoline. Most Americans understand the law of supply and demand, but they may not know that America is the only developed nation in the world that restricts access to its own offshore energy resources, or that an annual vote in Congress is require to continue that policy. That time of the year has come, and the next 78 days will be a critical period for America’s energy security.

Emphasis added. The extent to which the Democrats are depriving American consumers of their own energy resources is clearly indicated by this graphic, courtesy of the IER; click to enlarge:

I don’t think the Democrats will be able to take the heat that is coming from voters. My guess is that between now and the election, they will pretend to give in on the energy issue. If that is correct, they will not renew the ban on OCS exploration and will purport, in other ways, to remove government restrictions that keep the price of energy high. In doing so, they will be counting on the one-two punch of regulatory morass followed by litigation initiated by “environmental” groups to prevent any actual energy production from taking place, probably for decades.

So the battle is likely to shift away from acquiescence to exploration in principle, in the direction of removing the practical impediments to energy development.

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