You’ll notice that I didn’t blindly, wildly applaud President Bush’s remarks yesterday calling on Congress to lift its offshore drilling ban. (Full speech text here.)
Better late than never, of course. But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that this is leadership. Or that the Democrats bear 100 percent of the blame for inaction.
There are two bans on drilling–one by Congress and one by an White House executive order put in place by President Bush’s father. Why won’t the son revoke that order NOW if he truly believes expanding American oil production by increasing access to the Outer Continental Shelf is an urgent priority. I quoted the Institute for Energy Research last week: “Mr. Bush, Tear Up That Offshore Drilling Ban.”
Instead, Mr. Bush is playing a game of You First:
Republicans in Congress have proposed several promising bills that would lift the legislative ban on oil exploration in the OCS. I call on the House and the Senate to pass good legislation as soon as possible. This legislation should give the states the option of opening up OCS resources off their shores, provide a way for the federal government and states to share new leasing revenues, and ensure that our environment is protected. There’s also an executive prohibition on exploration in the OCS. When Congress lifts the legislative ban, I will lift the executive prohibition.
I’m not the only one bothered by the White House’s failure to lead. Here’s the Wall Street Journal today:
Even some of Washington’s fiercest opponents of oil drilling are thinking anew, and the politics of domestic energy production seem to be shifting. This isn’t surprising with gas prices as a top-tier campaign issue. More confounding was President Bush’s timidity yesterday as he tried to prod Congress into movement.
Mr. Bush argued that leaving most of America’s immense offshore oil-and-gas resources off-limits was “outdated and counterproductive,” and he called on Congress to end its quarter-century ban. Fair enough. But the ban actually has two components, one of which is a 1990 executive order; like launching a warhead, both keys must be turned. Mr. Bush said he would only turn his after Congress did.
The Administration has botched a prime political opportunity. Lifting the Presidential ban would have been symbolic for now, because Congress’s ban would still apply. But it would have put the spotlight on Congress as the last political obstacle to exploiting domestic reserves, just as public support for more drilling is rising…
…If it isn’t already obvious, Democrats seem intent on proving that they do not understand the oil business – and Mr. Bush would have done better to ramp up the pressure. The White House says it wants to work out a compromise with Congress, which isn’t likely unless Republicans start playing their strongest hand.
And the Beltway elephants wonder why the Republican Party is in such trouble…blog comments powered by Disqus
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