Now that the U.S. Congress has returned from its August recess, the congressional leadership will no longer be able to avoid responding to loud and clear demands to “drill here now.” Dozens of opinion polls have found 70-75% of voters want Congress to end the bans on the development of U.S. oil resources. Long adamantly opposed to new drilling, the leadership now admits it might support opening up a few areas. Voters should beware of their compromise proposals.

The Senate and House compromises completely fail to solve the problems they purport to address, i.e. high fuel prices and dependence on oil imports from hostile nations. The compromises wrap token concessions to new drilling inside more of their same failed energy policies built on mandates, subsidies of unrealistic alternative fuels like ethanol, and various versions of windfall profit taxes on oil companies. Such proposals are worse than doing nothing.

If Congress does nothing, all bans on U.S. off-shore production will expire September 30, providing access to all 1.76 billion acres of the outer continental shelf (OCS). Oil production expertise can then find the oil where it exists. Congress needs to resign its self-appointed role as the country’s central energy planner. Through its progressively broader restrictions on energy development over the last three decades, Congress is largely responsible for driving fuel and power costs up.

Congress should let the clock run out on the off-shore bans, and then force simple up-or-down votes on ANWR and oil shale development. Keep it simple and clear. Removing all these bans will rapidly lower fuel prices as the market anticipates greater supply in the not too distant future.

– Kathleen Hartnett White