Skyrocketing gas prices are rapidly changing Americans’ priorities. Voters routinely identify energy costs as either the second or third most important issue. Considering that any economist will tell you that high energy prices are a major cause of recent economic sluggishness, and that the economy has been the No. 1 issue on voters’ minds for some time, the cost of energy has quickly become a defining issue for the nation.

High energy costs were a big reason why liberal efforts to institute a carbon tax failed earlier this month in the Senate. Now emboldened conservatives are moving to further help American consumers by pushing for the lifting of government bans on energy development. In April 2007 only 41% of Americans favored drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Today, 57% of Americans favor drilling in coastal and wilderness areas currently off limits.

The typical liberal response to calls for more domestic oil production is that drilling will not help lower prices signifcantly. For example, Speaker Nancy Pelosi says, “Even by their own standards, drilling in ANWR by the year 2030 would save 1 penny off the price per gallon.” While the estimated 10 to 13 billion barrels of oil currently off limits in ANWR may not drive down the price of oil by itself, liberals are vastly underselling the potential domestic energy possibilities currently off limits thanks to federal bans. Just last week liberals in Congress rejected a proposal to allow drilling for oil 50 miles of the U.S. coast. The U.S. Minerals Management Service estimates that 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas can be found along the U.S. outer continental shelf.

And there is also plenty of energy currently banned from production onshore, too. The Department of Interior estimates onshore energy in the West and Alaska contains 31 billion carrels of oil and 231 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That 31 billion barrels of oil represents U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia for 50 years and the 231 trillion cubc feet of natural gas is enoug to supply all of America’s households for 46 years.

Then there is the granddaddy of them all: the oil shale in Green River Formation, which goes through Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. According to a RAND Corp. study, there are 1.5 trillion to 1.8 trillion barrels worth of oil shale in the Green River Formation. That is more than triple the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. At $95 a barrel, it was not economically viable to develop these resources, but at $130 it definitely is. Furthermore, Shell Oil scientists have already conducted small-scale field tests that if replicated on a large scale would make developing the oil shale profitable at $20 a barrel. Are liberals in Congress anxious to see this oil help American consumers? No. Just last week they voted to extend their ban on oil shale development.

The other liberal objection to increased domestic energy production is that the additional supplies will not affect prices for a decade. We will let Jay Leno respond: “Democrats said it would not do any good because it would not produce oil for 10 years. You know, same thing they said 10 years ago.”

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