Though still facing an uphill fight in the current Congress, the recently introduced American Energy Act is an important bill because it keeps up the pressure for sensible steps to bring down high energy prices. Regardless of its chances for success in 2008, this bill’s pro-energy provisions – opening up some of the vast energy-rich offshore and onshore regions that are off-limits and removing other federal impediments to more domestic supplies – are important for the long-term. In fact, the environmental activists can teach their pro-energy counterparts a thing or two about stick-to-itiveness.

Nearly every major environmental law, including the ones that are contributing to today’s high energy prices, was several years (if not a decade or more) in the making. Activists persisted, even during times like the Reagan years when very little of their agenda was likely to get enacted. But they slowly made progress in winning people over to their side, or at least in wearing the opposition down, and eventually got the laws they wanted.

If this works for bad ideas, it should also work for good ones, like increased domestic energy supplies. Keeping this debate alive has not yet accomplished anything legislatively (the Congressional leadership is doing all it can to avoid having to vote on such measures), but is already winning over the public who strongly support new drilling. With persistence, these ideas will win out – now if possible, but later if not.