Business as usual
Change. It's what you've got left after filling up the tank at the gas station. But not something that is forthcoming in Washington, where the more thing change, the more they remain the same. George Will writes about energy supply and demand, and why it is objectively important but subjectively unimportant to anyone that matters.
Rising in the Senate on May 13, Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat, explained: "I rise to discuss rising energy prices." The president was heading to Saudi Arabia to seek an increase in its oil production, and Schumer's gorge was rising. ...
Can a senator, with so many things on his mind, know so precisely how the price of gasoline would respond to that increase in the oil supply? Schumer does know that if you increase the supply of something, the price of it probably will fall. That is why he and 96 other senators recently voted to increase the supply of oil on the market by stopping the flow of oil into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which protects against major physical interruptions. Seventy-one of the 97 senators who voted to stop filling the reserve also oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
One million barrels is what might today be flowing from ANWR if in 1995 President Bill Clinton had not vetoed legislation to permit drilling there. One million barrels produce 27 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel. Seventy-two of today's senators -- including Schumer, of course, and 38 other Democrats, including Barack Obama, and 33 Republicans, including John McCain -- have voted to keep ANWR's estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil off the market.
The political class responds to organized pressure much faster than it does to inchoate sentiment. The environmental lobby may not represent a great many persons, but their small numbers understate the power of their influence. They're in the process, sitting on corporate boards, drafting legislation through networks of friends, setting the public relations agenda. And they are purposefully following a plan. Whenever they are checked, they simply wait, lie dormant and try again at the next opportunity.
Even as gas prices soar, the Senate was considering the 500 page Global Warming bill. But, after considering the public mood, the Senators shelved it. Not for reasons of principle, but probably for reasons of tactical timing. The Politico writes:
Apparently three days of debate was enough for what many senators called "the most important issue facing the planet."
With little chance of winning passage of a sweeping 500-page global warming bill, the Senate Democratic leadership is planning to yank the legislation after failing to achieve the 60-vote threshold needed to move the bill to the next stage. After a 48-36 vote on the climate change bill, the Senate is likely to move on to a separate energy debate next week.
The legislation collapsed for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the poor timing of debating a bill predicted to increase energy costs while much of the country is focused on $4-a-gallon gas. On top of that, a number of industrial-state Democrats such as Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio were uncomfortable with the strong emissions caps that would have created a new regime of regulations for coal, auto and other manufacturing industries. Republicans, for the most part, held firm against a bill they said would cost billions in regulations while pushing the cost of gas higher. Seven Republicans, mostly moderates, voted for the procedural motion on the legislation while four Democrats voted against it.
The debate in many ways was about setting the stage for a more serious climate change effort under the next president. While President Bush would have vetoed any cap-and-trade bill this year, both McCain and Obama back some form of mandatory emissions reduction, so this debate will gain serious traction again next year.
"We're getting ready for the next president of the United States, who we know ... will be hospitable to this bill," Boxer said.
The hard fact is that environmental regulation has actual or opportunity costs. And any solution to so-called Global Warming costs, too. We all understand the principle. If you want that doggie in the window, pay for it. You may hanker for that lunch down at the corner and are entitled to it, if you shell out the price. Why is it so hard to accept that Environmental Good must be paid for? Probably because most people are just getting by. Not everyone can attend what Ann Schroeder calls Woodstock for Rich People. There is a world where you can both have your cake and eat it. All you need is enough money to do it.
But the rest of the world has to make do with politics. Politics is the art of promising something for nothing. Or at least hiding the cost so that voters think they're getting a deal. Free health care, the goodwill of Ahmedinajad, a reduction in Greenhouse Gases, the approval of the United Nations, Change -- all of it -- has a price tag. None of it will come for free.
Only two things are inevitable in life. Death and taxes. And with advances in biological science we might even solve the first. But not the second.
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