The Path To Victory

With oil prices shaping up as the dominant issue of this campaign season, evidence is growing that Republicans can win in November if they get behind a program of aggressive energy development. Our friend Michele Bachmann showed how it’s done yesterday, with a proposal that she (and the House Republicans) estimate could cut gas prices in half at the pump:

Gas prices could be slashed in half if Congress would open up the country’s Arctic slope, deep-sea reserves and oil shale fields for exploration and drilling, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said Monday. ***

The plan, contained in a half-dozen bills that Bachmann has cosponsored, also includes opening new oil refineries (three of them at closed military bases) and incentives to invest in alternative energy sources such as wind, nuclear energy and clean coal-to-liquid technology.

The paper contacted Bachmann’s Democratic opponent for a comment; it’s striking how lame and whiny his response was. In truth, though, it’s about as good as the Democrats are going to do.

Poll data indicate that the American people are anxious to start drilling. This Rasmussen survey, which came out today, says that by an overwhelming 67% to 18% margin, respondents favor offshore drilling. Even a plurality of liberals are in favor. Other poll data yield the same conclusions.

The Democrats are boxed in between the rock of environmental extremism and the hard place of hate for companies that make money, so they will be endlessly wrong-footed on the issue.

The Republicans’ biggest problem is that they can’t be the party of economic growth and affordable energy unless John McCain supports the initiative at the top. So far, he’s getting better, but is far from the full-throated advocate the party needs.

Today McCain gave an energy speech in Houston–the first of several he will give over the weeks to come. As we previewed last night, the highlight of McCain’s speech was his endorsement of offshore drilling:

We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. And I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use.

We can do this in ways that are consistent with sensible standards of environmental protection. And in states that choose to permit exploration, there must be an appropriate sharing of benefits between federal and state governments. But as a matter of fairness to the American people, and a matter of duty for our government, we must deal with the here and now, and assure affordable fuel for America by increasing domestic production.

That’s good, obviously. But McCain larded it up with ritual invocations of the global warming myth:

We now know that fossil fuel emissions, by retaining heat within the atmosphere, threaten disastrous changes in climate. No challenge of energy is to be taken lightly, and least of all the need to avoid the consequences of global warming.

And he’s never going to come around on ANWR:

Quite rightly, I believe, we confer a special status on some areas of our country that are best left undisturbed. When America set aside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we called it a “refuge” for a reason.

McCain does speak eloquently about the collateral consequences of failing to develop our own energy resources. For example:

We are borrowing from foreign lenders to buy oil from foreign producers. In the world’s capital markets, often we are even borrowing Saudi money for Saudi oil. For them, the happy result is that they are both supplier and creditor to the most productive economy on earth. For us, the result is both dependency and debt. Over time, in interest payments, we lose trillions of dollars that could have been better invested in American enterprises. And we lose value in the dollar itself, as our debt portfolio undermines confidence in the American economy.

As bad as all that is, the second consequence is worse by far. Oil revenues are enriching the enemies of the United States, and potentially limiting our own options in containing the threat they present. Iran alone receives more than 66 billion dollars a year from oil sales, even as that regime finances terrorists, threatens Israel, and endangers the peace of the world with its designs on nuclear weapons.

These are powerful points. But in the weeks to come, McCain needs to emerge as an aggressive, enthusiastic advocate of affordable energy and economic growth. If he can do that, he, and the Republican Party, will sweep to victory in November.

Unfortunately, with McCain it is often one step forward and one step back. Today his campaign released a new television ad that focuses not on energy costs, but on global warming. Apparently the idea was to distinguish McCain from President Bush, but it’s exactly the wrong message–the one message that will fuzz the issue and let the Democrats off the hook.

UPDATE: President Bush has joined in the call for Congress to repeal the ban on OCS drilling.

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