Morning Bell: Hold Pelosi to Her Promise

Conn Carroll /

Finally giving up some ground to reality, Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled her energy package and conceded more than early reports indicated she would. But despite headlines like “Democrats Reluctantly Embrace Offshore Drilling,” it is exceedingly important that conservatives keep their eye on the ball.  Earlier this week, the House leadership promised Congress a vote on the Republican “all-of-the-above” plan. Americans deserve a full debate on energy so it is imperative that conservatives force Pelosi to honor that promise.

Pelosi’s Package: Do not believe everything you read about Pelosi’s new willingness to develop America’s natural resources. For example, the New York Times reports that Pelosi’s plan would allow drilling “100 miles off any section of the United States coast.” Which would be true, but only if Florida became a foreign country. In reality, the plan still bans drilling off the coast of Florida’s Panhandle, an area that is particularly rich in natural gas. Even where Pelosi’s plan does allow for some new exploration, it still leaves much of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) off limits. Despite the fact that energy infrastructure cannot be viewed from shore after just 25 miles, Pelosi’s plan codifies the OCS ban for the entire first 50 miles. And even then Pelosi rigs the legislation against oil exploration by requiring states to opt in to drilling but then also denying them any share of the resulting oil and natural gas revenue.

Then comes all of the concessions that Pelosi is demanding in return for letting Americans develop their own resources: alternative energy mandates for power companies that will only drive up consumer’s monthly bills; new restrictions on financial markets that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission says are completely unnecessary; and weakening our national security by turning the Strategic Petroleum Reserve into a political football.

The “All-of-the-Above” Alternative: Under the House GOP’s all-of-the-above energy plan, all of the estimated 18.17 billion barrels of oil and 77 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the OCS would be available to American consumers. No bans on the first 50 miles, no cutting states out of royalties and no exceptions for Florida. This is the only plan that would allow the American taxpayers to receive the full $2.6 trillion in lease payments, royalties and corporate taxes that some estimate will be generated from full exploration of the OCS.

But the all-of-the-above plan does not end there. It also opens up the 10.3 billion barrels of oil estimated to be in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A 2007 study by the University of California estimated that leases and royalties from ANWR would generate $251 billion in government and state revenue — and that was assuming a barrel of oil cost $53. Oil opens at $102 a barrel today.

Alternative energy is not ignored either. The Republican plan also attempts to improve energy conservation with tax credits for businesses and families who purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles. Barriers to the revival of the nuclear power industry are removed, and the tax credits for renewable energy (including but not limited to wind, solar and hydrogen) are part of the plan.

Conservatives clearly have momentum in the energy debate. Now is not the time to leave billions of dollars buried in the ocean floor. Conservatives must hold Pelosi to her promise and allow a vote on a real commitment to expanding America’s energy supplies.

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