Signs of Intelligent Life Discovered in Washington
by JR Dieckmann
A funny thing happened on the way to Pelosi’s House the other day. A handful of Democrats and Republican House members took a detour and found themselves in a committee chamber where they formed the “House Energy Working Group.”
This small, bipartisan group of congressmen, led by John Peterson (R-PA) and Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), have chosen to do an end run around Ms. Pelosi and her anti-energy policy legislation known as the “Drill Bill,” which would demand that oil companies drill on land already leased, and prohibit any expansion offshore or in Alaska.
In other words, force drilling where there is little or no oil, and ban drilling where the oil is. Growing public opinion indicates that the blocking of increased domestic oil exploration will be a loosing strategy in November.
Members of the House Energy Working Group, both Republicans and Democrats, understand that the only answer to solving high gas prices involves major increases in domestic oil production. Their objective is to rise above partisan politics and work out real solutions that both sides can agree to. In doing so, they have disallowed any special interests or House leadership to be involved with the group.
"We need to get the public educated," says Peterson. "But when we come out with this proposal, you can be assured there’s no lobbyists, there’s no interest groups on either side of this issue, and there’s no leadership, Republican or Democratic, at the table. And their leadership styles, that wanted to come, we’ve not allowed them to come. This is member driven."
Rather than “debate” the issues, the atmosphere in the chamber was more of a casual and friendly discussion without the strict protocols that usually apply to congressional committee meetings. Instead of debating their differences, they are discussing them in the interest of developing a better understanding of each other’s views and finding ways to come together on them.
In the two hours of their first meeting, more progress was made than has been made in either house of the Congress since this issue came up. They all have one and the same objective, to solve the problem of high gas prices, achieve energy independence, and to come up with a plan to do whatever is necessary to accomplish that goal.
See the press release after their first meeting at:
The Working Group has now met with a Senate group that has launched a similar effort, creating momentum for a comprehensive national energy plan in both chambers. Abercrombie says the House group is pushing to introduce legislation before the August recess and to have a vote scheduled by September.
Following the initial meeting of a bipartisan House Energy Working Group Monday evening, Representatives Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), and John Peterson (R-Pa.) issued the following statement on the direction of the working group:
"We are very pleased at the level of commitment among the group of 23 Republicans and Democrats from all parts of the country who were able to attend the first meeting and begin working together to develop a real national energy plan.
"It is abundantly clear that the public is tired of the partisan rhetoric coming out of Washington. They want solutions. This working group recognizes that politics as usual will not solve our national energy crisis. A comprehensive approach must include regulatory reform, increased domestic production, conservation and real investment in renewable and alternative energy technologies. These are all part of America’s energy future.
"Upon adjournment of our initial meeting, we have renewed hope that working together – across the aisle – Congress can put differences aside and act in the best interest of the nation, regardless of party affiliation."
The House Bipartisan Energy Working Group will meet regularly to develop consensus legislation that will be introduced prior to the August recess. Once the group has worked out their plan, the question then arises of how to force their legislative amendment onto the floor of the House over Pelosi’s insistence that oil drilling proposals of this nature would be a “non-starter.” Abercrombie and Peterson have a plan for that too.
“The speaker has a record of having a position herself on an issue, said Abercrombie. “And knowing that she does not have the votes for that, but putting it on the floor anyway and then casting her vote, we’re confident that both Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House and John Boehner as the minority leader of the House will recognize that this is a member-driven series of proposals and that this is, in fact, the people’s house and that the public is demanding that we take action.
And we believe if we put together a series of proposals that that will lead us to energy independence. And to keep us from shifting our wealth out of the country and invest it in the infrastructure that we need in this country, that’s something that we can accomplish.”
This 23 member group recognizes that the real issue at hand is not “energy” in general, as many have tried to make it by proposing more electrical energy, but it is specifically oil and gasoline that are now in crisis and must be addressed in specific terms. In order to do that, compromises have to be made with the proponents of alternative electrical energy, which can also help to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
The answer to energy independence is not to end our dependence on oil, as many Democrats propose. This is unreasonable and unworkable until the day comes when we have a practical and inexpensive motor fuel to replace it with. The answer to energy independence is to end our dependence on foreign oil. That is the goal of the House Energy Working Group.
At the end of their first session, the group came to a significant agreement. Democrats agreed to expansion of drilling offshore and in Alaska, provided Republicans would agree that all oil extracted from Alaska be sent directly to the lower 40, instead of to Japan and Asia where it currently is sent for refining because of the shorter distance.
Republicans cheerfully agreed to this providing the Democrats could convince Ms. Pelosi to bring the measure to the House floor. The Democrats admitted this was going to be an obstacle, but said they would do their best to persuade her. If she refused, they would then bring it to the floor themselves as a member initiative, and it would be passed by an overwhelming majority of the House in spite of Madam Pelosi.
What this means is that American oil must eventually be made available exclusively for America and we need to get away from participation in the world oil market where we have no control over oil prices. Once we increase domestic American oil supplies by just 12 percent, and keep it in our own country, we can stop using Saudi Arabian oil altogether. Another 10 percent and we can end oil imports from Venezuela. Gradually, we can stop buying OPEC oil on the world oil market completely.
And what do you think will happen the very minute we announce our plan to replace Saudi oil with American oil? Oil and gas prices will drop dramatically almost overnight. The same thing will happen again when we start to replace oil from Venezuela with American oil. By that time, oil will be back down to $50 a barrel on the world oil market, while our domestic oil costs us less than $20 a barrel to pump out of the ground. Gas prices will have dropped to under $2 a gallon.
The House Energy Working Group is the first step toward making this happen. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and Rep. John Peterson have been working together to get this project underway for several years. Now it is becoming a reality. They, and the other 21 members of the Working Group, deserve a “thank you” from all Americans and should be recognized for their patriotism in finding real solution to the problem of high gas prices and answering the challenge of getting past partisan roadblocks in Congress. This is the way Congress is supposed to work.