Thursday, June 12, 2008

Kinnaman: The Questions We Should Be Asking About Oil

By Matt Kinnaman
Thursday, June 12

What if we had a different kind of hearing on Capitol Hill? What if we put our representatives and senators on the hot seat for a change, turned up the lights, rolled the television cameras, and they had to answer the questions?

It might go something like this:

"Honored members of Congress, thank you for joining us at today's hearing regarding rising gasoline prices and America's dangerous dependence on imported oil. We have some questions for you. Please feel free to stop us at any point if you want to respond. Otherwise, we will proceed.

"Question One: You have shown deep obsession about the caribou in Alaska. Interestingly, since major Alaskan oil-production projects began in the 1970s, the Central Arctic caribou herd, which lives in proximity to these oil-production activities, has increased in size from about 5,000 to more than 30,000. Given these numbers and your continued opposition to drilling in Alaska, we just have to ask: What do you have against caribou?

"Question Two: If caribou could vote, we anticipate they would join the super-majority of Alaska's population, who support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In addition, nearly a
half-million Americans have signed a petition imploring you to stop blocking access to America's energy resources in Alaska. This oil alone would augment domestic supplies enough to cause an immediate crude price reduction worldwide. With gasoline prices rising faster than ever, do you have anything to say to voters about your refusal to lift this blockade and let America get its own oil, and cheaper gas?

"Question Three: Last month, when you grilled Big Oil executives about their companies' profits, we don't remember hearing that, in the first quarter of 2008, ExxonMobil actually paid more than $29 billion in total taxes, which is almost three times its net profit for that period, and that similar reports were filed by ConocoPhillips and ChevronTexaco. This means that governments are getting more money from these oil companies than the oil companies are making themselves, and that you might therefore see those profits as a good thing. Do you have anything to say about this?

"Question Four: Almost all of our continental shelf on both coasts is subject to government moratoriums on oil drilling, and more than 40 federal policy actions stand in the way of further development of natural gas projects. If these restrictions were lifted, American energy supplies would rapidly expand, and energy costs would drop, but you've been opposed to considering this. Do you think it's possible that the positions you've taken to continue these policies constitute an impediment to the future strength and security of our population?

"Question Five: As you gather your thoughts, let's talk briefly about nuclear power, a technology pioneered by American scientists. It is the cleanest and most efficient energy resource ever discovered, but U.S. regulatory roadblocks have made it virtually impossible to expand its use to meet the growing power supplies required for a healthy economy. Your biggest criticism about nuclear power is that it is dangerous. Here is our question: In the history of nuclear power generation in the United States, how many people have died from accidents, safety breeches or malfunctions? We'll give you a clue; it is equal to the number of answers you've provided in today's hearing thus far. But let's get back to our oil questions.

"Question Six: We have learned that Congress recently enacted a ban on the recovery of oil-shale resources in the American West -- resources equal to almost a trillion barrels of oil, triple the amount in all of Saudi Arabia. American oil companies are ready to invest in the economically viable production of these domestic oil supplies. If you lift congressional prohibitions against it, the United States would move dramatically closer to energy independence, worldwide financial markets would respond favorably, the economy would be strengthened, prices would fall, Americans would have more money in their pockets, and terrorists who celebrate our dependence on foreign oil would lose their primary strategic strength. Why do you oppose this?

"That concludes our questions for today. This hearing will now stand in recess. We implore our legislators to embrace the historic opportunity we have. If Congress does the right thing, America will end its dependence on foreign oil by simply using our own resources. Senators and representatives, for many of you, this will require a whole new level of political honesty and leadership."

Now, that would be a change we can believe in.