July 14, 2008

About a month ago, Bush, McCain, and congressional Republicans were without any real ideas about energy policy. Pressed on what to do about gas prices, the president told reporters, “[T]here is no magic wand to wave right now.” In fact, the president repeated the line three times, as if to say, “Don’t ask me; I just work here.”

But that was before the GOP settled on coastal drilling as the answer to all of our problems. Never mind that we wouldn’t actually see that oil for at least a decade, and never mind that it would only fuel (pun intended) the addiction we’re supposed to break, Republicans were ready to do something, whether it made any sense or not.

Oddly enough, on June 18, Bush demanded that Congress lift the ban on coastal drilling. The president could have just overturned the executive order on the policy, but “he said he wouldn’t do that because he wanted Congress to act first.”

Today, Bush changed his mind.

Putting pressure on congressional Democrats to back more exploration for oil, President Bush Monday called on Congress to join him in lifting a ban on offshore drilling that has stood since his father was president.

There are two prohibitions on offshore drilling, one imposed by Congress and another by executive order signed by the first President Bush in 1990. The current president, trying to ease market tensions and boost supply, called last month for Congress to lift its prohibition before he did so himself.

“The only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress,” Bush said in a statement in the Rose Garden. “Now the ball is squarely in Congress’ court.”

Bush added that “Americans are paying at the pump” because Congress hasn’t approved the White House’s drilling plan. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) added, “Now the only thing standing between consumers at the pump and the increased American energy they are demanding is the Democrat leadership in Congress.”

I’ve long since given up trying to figure out whether these guys actually believe their own nonsense, but either way, this is just mind-numbing.

I think the Obama campaign’s statement hit most of the major points.

“If offshore drilling would provide short-term relief at the pump or a long-term strategy for energy independence, it would be worthy of our consideration, regardless of the risks. But most experts, even within the Bush Administration, concede it would do neither. It would merely prolong the failed energy policies we have seen from Washington for thirty years.

“Senator Obama believes Americans need real short-term relief, which is why he has proposed a second round of stimulus with energy rebates for working families. And over the long-term, Senator Obama understands that our national security and the survival of the planet demand a real strategy to break our dependence on foreign oil by developing clean, new sources of energy and by vastly improving the energy efficiency of our cars, trucks and our economy. He is ready to lead such a transformation,” said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

This is hardly worth debating anymore; it’s just so blisteringly obvious. Would coastal drilling lower the price of gas? No. Would any of this oil reach the pump before 2017? No. Is this even in the same neighborhood as a responsible energy policy? No.

Now, I understand why Republicans love this idea. First, it gives the appearance of taking an issue seriously, without having to worry about facts and stuff. Second, oil companies would love to do more coastal drilling, and Republicans love to make oil companies happy. Third, they know Dems have a reality-based outlook, which makes it easier for the GOP to scream, “Hey! Dems won’t let us drill and it’s hurting your family’s finances!”

But that doesn’t make this nonsense any more palatable. It’s a ridiculous policy, which the Republicans know is a ridiculous policy. It’s as simple as that.

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