June 17th, 2008 by Rightsideup

John McCain has apparently now started saying that he wants states to be allowed to drill off their coastlines. According to Jim Geraghty’s Campaign Spot blog:

John McCain just completed a press conference here in Arlington, VA. Not the most chock-full of news appearance the senator has ever made, but one clear headline coming out of it — tomorrow he will call for the lifting of “the federal moratorium on states that choose to permit exploration” off their shores.

He said that in the coming weeks, he would be focusing on “America’s energy crisis” – the country’s dependence on foreign oil. Tomorrow he will call for the lifting of “the federal moratorium on states that choose to permit exploration.”

“We must embark on a national mission to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil… exploration is a step toward the longer-term goal.” The candidate repeated his advocacy of a federal gas tax holiday.

Asked about the offshore drilling, McCain responded, “Right now there’s a moratorium, and they have to be lifted. I’m not dictating to the states that they drill for oil. I’m saying the moratorium should be lifted so states can choose that option if they want to.” He added that the situation might require “additional incentives… in terms of tangible financial rewards” to states that permit drilling. He said he didn’t have a particular position at this point on an appropriate distance from the coast for offshore drilling.

Campaign Carl Cameron: Is lifting moratoria a way of addressing conservative irritation with your position on ANWR?

McCain: “I believe ANWR is a pristine area… but I also believe lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling for oil and natural gas is a very high priority.”

I kind of feel like McCain’s boxed himself into a corner on the ANWR thing and the journalist who asked him that question kind of hit the nail on the head. Here’s an opportunity to open up some clear blue water between himself and Obama on an issue which is close to the hearts of many voters, and yet he’s allowing environmentalism (not an issue likely to swing votes) to trump it.

The moratorium idea’s a good one, but the logic should be followed through with a similar position on ANWR – let the Alaskans decide if they want to drill there – who else cares? Who is ever likely to visit the area? There aren’t even any roads leading to it. Pristine it may be (the ellipsis in the quote above is Geraghty’s and not mine so I don’t know if he elaborated on that) but that isn’t an argument in itself for preventing drilling there. The bottom of the ocean may be pristine too, but if no-one’s ever going to see it I assume no-one will object to drilling for oil there.

I just came across this site, which looks interesting. Haven’t had time to explore it yet but might make it the subject of a future post.

June 11th, 2008 by Rightsideup

Just followed a link from the Hot Air blog to americansolutions.com, a site set up by Newt Gingrich and others as the main web presence of American Solutions, which is described as follows on the site:

American Solutions for Winning the Future is a new, non-partisan organization built around three goals: to defend America and our allies abroad and defeat our enemies, to strengthen and revitalize America’s core values, and to move government into the 21st Century. The General Chairman is former Speaker Newt Gingrich.

One of the organization’s key short-term initiatives is a petition to gather signatures in support of allowing drilling for oil in the US in areas where it’s currently prohibited by law. The wording of the petition is as follows:

We, therefore, the undersigned citizens of the United States, petition the U.S. Congress to act immediately to lower gasoline prices (and diesel and other fuel prices)* by authorizing the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries.

I’ve just signed it. I have no idea what good it will do – when was the last time a petition really changed anything? But I think it’s a useful way to gauge support among the population at large for this cause, which is the greatest single opportunity for reducing the price of oil and gasoline in the medium to long term. They had over 500,000 signatures at the time I signed it, and I assume that number has been rising rapidly. Newt Gingrich has (or had) a knack for corralling public support for big picture programs (think the Contract with America). This organization seems to have grown out of his failed attempt to have himself anointed the Republican nominee for president without participating in the normal process, but he’ll be trying to parlay it into something else. As long as the focus remains promoting sound policy rather than getting Newt elected to higher office there’s a lot of potential for good there. I think he’s a far more useful figure as an organizer and campaigner than as an office holder at this point.

Note to those responsible for the site: provide a logo and other materials that can easily be embedded into blogs and other sites. The main logo on the site certainly doesn’t serve this purpose. You need to make it as easy as possible for your core constituency to get the word out. They do have some stuff but they’re banner ads rather than logos or widgets. The only thing remotely logo-like is a naff-looking little thing (see below).

June 2nd, 2008 by Rightsideup

I just read this piece by Mark Steyn, one of my favorite commentators, on Congress’s latest attempt to “fix” our oil problems, and found myself in complete agreement with everything he said. Here’s an excerpt:

“It shall be illegal and a violation of this Act,” declared the House of Representatives, “to limit the production or distribution of oil, natural gas, or any other petroleum product … or to otherwise take any action in restraint of trade for oil, natural gas, or any petroleum product when such action, combination, or collective action has a direct, substantial, and reasonably foreseeable effect on the market, supply, price, or distribution of oil, natural gas, or other petroleum product in the United States.”

Er, okay. But, before we start suing distant sheikhs in exotic lands for violating the NOPEC act, why don’t we start by suing Congress? After all, who “limits the production or distribution of oil” right here in the United States by declaring that there’ll be no drilling in the Gulf of Florida or the Arctic National Mosquito Refuge?

Precisely. Congress wants to “help” us with this problem? Don’t intervene more, or posture because you know that no intervention is really going to help. Get out of the way! Lift the restrictions on drilling and refining and shipping oil and oil products here in the US. Allow the oil companies to get more of the stuff that’s just sitting there under American soil and waters waiting to be dug up and poured into someone’s SUV instead of forcing us to put up with the unnaturally high prices caused by OPEC’s latest squeeze on supply. Ronald Reagan famously said that the nine most terrifying words in the English language were, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” How true that is in the case of this Congress.

May 15th, 2008 by Rightsideup

CNN’s Jack Cafferty has a column looking at the option of lowering speed limits to bring down the price of gas. Here’s an excerpt:

Cars are most fuel efficient when driven between 30 mph and 60 mph. Above 65 mph, mileage drops sharply. This isn’t rocket science. If drivers are forced to slow down, we would all use less gasoline. And if demand went down, prices might just follow.

One expert says reducing highway speeds from 70 mph to 60 mph would reduce gasoline consumption between 2% and 3%. That could translate into a price reduction of as much as 10%. At today’s price, almost 38 cents a gallon.

This is exactly what happened in 1974 during the Middle East oil embargo. President Nixon and Congress imposed a national speed limit of 55 mph. Congress repealed the national speed limit law in 1995, and today there are 32 states with speed limits of 70 mph or higher. In Texas, you can even drive 80 mph on some roads.

Marvelous. Now we’re looking to the Carter era for solutions to our problems. Apparently the last 30 years were a big waste of time and there were no valuable lessons about government intervention in the economy worth remembering. So instead we’re taking our lessons from that fabulously successful Carter era of economic growth and prosperity.

If people want to use less gas, then they’re presumably quite welcome to reduce their speed on highways to 60mph or lower. But re-introducing a federal speed limit, with no constitutional justification whatsoever, just in order to meddle in the oil market, is several steps too far. There are much bigger and more effective ways to impact the oil market, not least permitting more drilling and refining of oil domestically. Why is it that certain people’s instincts always go to increasing government limitations on freedom of behavior when it comes to solving problems? And how come our collective memories of the past results of such policies are so short?