The Republican Energy Drill
By Ted Roach
TV NEWS SHOW HOST: —to presidential politics and a top campaign issue: skyrocketing energy prices and what to do about them.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (R): Is there anybody that’s as tired of paying $4 a gallon for gasoline? Is there anybody who’s sick and tired of it? We’re not going to pay $4 a gallon for gas, because we’re going to drill offshore, and we’re going to drill now, and we’re going to drill here, and we’re going to drill now.
DR. JOSEPH ROMM, FMR ASST SECRETARY, DEPT OF ENERGY, 1995-98: This is a problem that was 30 years in the making, and it’s not going to be solved overnight. But, as you say, you can’t win an election on that. You win an election by saying, "Drill here, drill now, and that will lower prices," and just lie to the American public.
MCCAIN: We have to drill here, and we have to drill now.
MCCAIN: We need oil drilling, and we need it now, offshore.
MCCAIN: We need to drill here, and we need to drill now.
ROMM: He has just been in the pocket of big oil in this mindless call for "Drill here, drill now," which is a microscopic piece of the puzzle.
TEXT ON SCREEN: Although the Republican energy plan has many facets, oil drilling is its central focus.
EJ DIONNE, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: I think the Republicans were shrewd to jump on this drilling issue.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, HANNITY & COLMES: And I think we got ourselves one heck of a campaign issue here, don’t you think?
GUEST, FOX NEWS: This is a gift politically for a terribly unfavorable year for Republicans.
HANNITY: Karl Rove says the GOP must stand for something. These are bumper stickers that you’re giving out: drill here, drill now, pay less.
NEWT GINGRICH, AMERICANSOLUTIONS.COM: The morning we start developing, prices start dropping, and all those folks in the Middle East begin to realize the US isn’t going to need them very much any longer.
HANNITY: Boy. That is the single best thing we could do for our economy and national security.
TEXT ON SCREEN: As Congress adjourned for recess in August, Republicans took to the stage to blame Democratic leadership for the failure to pass energy legislation.
TV NEWS HOST: Members of the congressional GOP minority are in their third day of a recess protest.
REP. JOHN SHADEGG (R-AZ): I think this sign summarizes our message. (Would you hold that?)
TV NEWS HOST: They’re calling on Democrats to come back from summer break to vote on an energy bill that, among other things, would increase offshore oil drilling.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), RANKING MEMBER, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: We have to drill. We’ve got to drill in Alaska and we’ve got to drill in the deep water.
REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN-6): More access to American oil.
REP. WALLY HERGER (R-CA-2): An opportunity to vote on lower gas prices.
REP. ZACH WAMP (R-TN-3): They’re for higher prices; we’re for lower prices.
ROMM: It’s more than just a lie. They know that, you know, for short-term political gain, they are deceiving the public. And it’s really kind of sad. The media and the American political system does not reward a blunt truth-telling; it rewards lies and hypocrisy. If the other side does nothing but say, "Drill. You must drill. If you don’t drill, you’re destroying the economy, you’re punishing Americans," and if they all say that consistently over and over and over again, and the media basically repeats their lies, then it does leave progressive politicians in a dilemma: they can basically advance what is a true but politically unpopular position—.
TEXT ON SCREEN: Some Republicans charged that the Democrats’ resistance to drilling amounted to a "War on the Poor."
SHADEGG: Their elitist, Volvo-driving lifestyles are simply inconvenienced. But you know what? For way too many Americans, high energy prices are destroying their lives.
REP. JOHN PETERSON (R-PA): Congress must act today, before we go home, so we stop the war on the poor.
REP. TODD TIAHRT (R-KS): I’m here because I want to stop the war on the poor. Why are you guys here? You want to stop the war on the poor? There are some things that we could do to bring the price of gas down is we want to bring onshore production at ANWR [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] in oil shale. We want to bring online deep-water production on the Outer Continental Shelf. If we do that, we believe we can bring down the price almost $2. That’ll help stop the war on the poor.
TEXT ON SCREEN: While Rep. Tiahrt favors an "all of the above" energy strategy, at the rally he spoke only of oil drilling and oil shale. ANP sat down with Rep. Tiahrt to talk more about oil drilling.
TIAHRT: It also includes using more production, using oil shale, expanding in the Arctic Circle, expanding off our coastline. We’re the only nation in the world that doesn’t produce energy off our shores. What we do is very limited.
TIAHRT: We’ve got a no-zone up here where you see the snow, in Alaska. That’s where ANWR is. It’s a frozen tundra. You will probably never go there in your lifetime.
ROMM: The Energy Information Administration released a major study in May which said that if you drilled in ANWR, then in the year 2025, gasoline prices would be two cents lower. ANWR might have a million barrels a day, and we might be able to get that much in 15 years. It is a very disingenuous and self-destructive lie to the American public.
INTERVIEWER: The criticism of ANWR, as you know, which seems to be backed up by this, is that it seems like a very distant dream, and one that, at best, would only have a marginal impact.
TIAHRT: That’s just one small part of an overall, comprehensive energy plan that has to occur.
TIAHRT: We also have a moratorium on the Outer Continental Shelf. That’s the "no" here, the "no" on the east coast, and the "no" down there by Florida. There are 86 billion barrels of oil out there.
ROMM: We opened up most of the offshore oil in 2006 in the Gulf of Mexico, about 40 billion barrels, and oil prices since then have doubled.
TIAHRT: I’m here to stop the war on the poor. Let Democrat leadership know that the no-zone is not going to cut it. It’s not going to cut it, because we have people that are suffering.
TIAHRT: What we need inside the federal government is an advocate that will move these things through the permitting process, through the regulatory process, like EPA, more quickly. Washington, for example, is a city of desks full of paper. And if you want your piece of paper to move, you have to go there and find who’s holding it up on his desk and say, "What about my piece of paper?" And then he’ll pull it out of the bottom of his stack and he’ll say, "Okay, here’s your piece of paper," and he’ll put it on the top, and that’ll be the next thing that he works on. We don’t have that in the federal government now for anybody that’s trying to produce energy. We need somebody to pull that piece of paper out of the stack and put it on top and say, "Let’s become energy independent in ten years."
INTERVIEWER: Although the oil and gas lobby in this town is incredibly powerful. They’re one of the top patrons to members of Congress.
TIAHRT: One of the most effective groups up here is the environmental groups. And some of those are very radical in their views. They think that mankind shouldn’t be in most of the world, that we shouldn’t be driving automobiles, and we should be all using bicycles and mass transit. That’s not how our economy works, and that’s not how we’re going to be number one, and that’s not how we’re going to rise the poor out of the situation they’re facing today with high energy prices.
ROMM: It is conservatives who get, you know, ad campaigns and who get contributions from the oil companies. The oil companies get bigger profits when oil prices are high. So it is not surprising that conservatives have for 25 years opposed higher fuel-economy standards, and it is not surprising that conservatives have steadfastly opposed alternative energy and renewable energy. They don’t want people to get off of fossil fuels and traditional energy, because conservatives get paid by those companies.
INTERVIEWER: Oil companies, over the course of your career in Congress, have been your number-one contributor. They contributed half a million dollars to your campaigns. Skeptics would say that your advocacy on behalf of oil shale in ANWR and/or drilling and domestic production is a result of those campaign contributions. What’s the response?
TIAHRT: You know, that’s a small part of the amount of money I’ve raised for my campaigns. So I think, you know, just to cordon off a little bit of it, thinking that’s a significant part, it has nothing to do with it. What I’m concerned about is how my parents pay their bills.
TEXT ON SCREEN: Since 1990, the oil and gas industry has contributed more than $220,000,000 to political campaigns. (Courtesy OpenSecrets.org) Seventy-five percent of that money went to Republican candidates.
ROMM: Well, I don’t think anyone should underestimate the vast wealth that the oil companies and the fossil-fuel companies have acquired with soaring prices. They have hundreds of billions of dollars to spend, and that can buy a lot of influence. It really, to a large extent, bought a major flip-flop by McCain in this kind of mindless "drill here, drill now" nonsense. You know, nothing is clearer than the fact that we are going to get off oil. We have to get off of oil, just because we’ve pretty much reached peak production, and prices are just going to keep going up, and supply will not keep up with demand. So, yes, this is a unique moment. When you get both T. Boone Pickens and vice president Al Gore both saying that we could and we must aggressively switch to renewable energy over the next 10 years, you know that this is [inaudible].
TEXT ON SCREEN: In a recent poll, 42 percent of Americans believed that drilling was the best way to reduce the cost of oil. Another poll reported that nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans believed it was more important to find new energy sources than to conserve energy. A third poll showed that Americans now trust John McCain more on energy issues than Barack Obama (42 percent). (Courtesy Rasmussen Reports)
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.