My representative in Congress, the Hon. John R. “Randy” Kuhl, R-N.Y., has sent me a four-color brochure labeled “Energy Report.” It is by far the most misleading document I’ve ever received from a member of Congress.
It deceives his constituents by offering only illusions of and false hopes for much-cheaper gasoline. But he’s not alone. He promotes a Republican-pushed bill that falsely promises salvation â€” and soon â€” from $4 a gallon gasoline.
Rep. Kuhl asks a question we’re all concerned with â€” “Why are gas prices so high?” His answer consists of faulting Democrats for failing to enact a Republican-sponsored initiative. By choosing an arbitrary spot in time â€” January 2007, the transfer of majority power to Democrats in the House â€” he blames House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a $1.64 per gallon price increase over the past 18 months. (He uses the June 4 national average of $3.98 as his benchmark.)
He describes a so-called “Democratic Plan to Lower Gas Prices” with “Savings Achieved.” According to Rep. Kuhl’s calculations, the Democratic “plan” â€” suing OPEC, launching investigations into “Price Gougers” and “Speculators,” imposing a $20 billion tax on oil producers, and halting shipments to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve â€” would save only a nickel a gallon.
On the contrary, Rep. Kuhl claims that the “Republican Plan to Lower Gas Prices” would reduce gas prices to $2.00 a gallon if adopted. Here’s his plan with potential savings, according to the congressman’s brochure:
â€¢ Bring U.S. oil online (ANWR + other exploration = $0.70 – $1.60
â€¢ Bring deepwater oil reserves online = $0.90 – $2.80
â€¢ Bring new oil refineries online = $0.15 – $0.45
â€¢ Cut earmark spending to fund “Gas Tax Holiday” = $0.18
â€¢ Halt oil shipments to SPR = $0.05
Rep. Kuhl offers no sources for his data. Remember, many constituents may take this material at face value without confirming his facts independently because this came from my congressman. He wouldn’t mislead me.
Rep. Kuhl outlines potential GOP plan savings as ranges. He wisely uses the minimum of the range to show how the “plan” would achieve a $2 a gallon price. But the maximum savings â€” if all occurred â€” would lower the price of gasoline to minus $1.10 a gallon, according to his numbers. If the maximum is so unbelievable, why should the minimum be any more believable, especially in the absence of sources for his figures?
The brochure contains no wording to correct any impression of the casual reader that the GOP plan savings could be accomplished immediately. Look what Rep. Kuhl outlines as GOP initiatives for savings â€” exploration and construction that would require at minimum a decade before crude oil would flow or gasoline would be refined. Nor does Rep. Kuhl figure in the impact of inflation, let alone geopolitical unrest or increasing demand, on his $3.98 gasoline before those decade-from-now initiatives would pay off. And he never mentions curtailing speculation as part of the “Republican Plan.”
A press release on Rep. Kuhl’s Web site â€” touting his $2-a-gallon plan as the The No More Excuses Energy Act, H.R. 3089 â€” similarly contains no sources for the data in what he calls the “Republican Energy Agenda.”
H.R. 3089 would shortcut regulation by a variety of federal agencies in the name of haste. Here are highlights of the bill that don’t appear in Rep. Kuhl’s brochure or other GOP lower-gas-prices rhetoric:
â€¢ Requires the President to designate at least 10 sites for oil or natural gas refineries on federal lands and make such sites available to the private sector for construction of refineries.
â€¢ Prohibits the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from denying an application for nuclear waste disposal on the grounds of present or future insufficient capacity.
â€¢ Terminates all existing federal laws prohibiting expenditures to conduct oil and natural gas leasing and preleasing activities in the Outer Continental Shelf.
â€¢ American-Made Energy and Good Jobs Act – Directs the Secretary of the Interior to establish and implement a competitive oil and gas leasing program in the Coastal Plain of Alaska.
Repeals the prohibition against producing oil and gas from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. [emphasis added; see full text]
The bill provides fast-track provisions for refineries and oil exploration and production. It promises jobs, always a political carrot. In terms of environmental protection of the coastal plain, it contains two curiously conflicting provisions in section 427:
â€¢ No Significant Adverse Effect Standard … (1) ensure the oil and gas exploration, development, and production activities on the Coastal Plain will result in no significant adverse effect on fish and wildlife, their habitat, and the environment …
â€¢ Site-Specific Assessment and Mitigation … (2) a plan be implemented to avoid, minimize, and mitigate (in that order and to the extent practicable) any significant adverse effect identified under paragraph (1)
In other words: Don’t hurt anything, but if you do, try to fix it. In Republican philosophy, environmental mitigation equals environmental protection. And who gets to define significant?
Rep. Kuhl’s brochure doesn’t bother his constituents with such trifles. It provides only instruction on whom to blame (the Democrats) for $4 gasoline and how fast gas prices will fall (soon, real soon).
Rep. Kuhl isn’t alone in selling this bill as a panacea for today’s pump prices. Consider this from the Web site of bill co-sponsor Rep. Tim Wahlberg, R-Mich.:
This appropriately named legislation would immediately impact the price at the pump by encouraging construction of new refineries, reducing greenhouse emissions, boosting alternative energy development, increasing American oil production and encouraging the construction of new nuclear power plants.
Immediately? Hardly. And new nuke plants, too?
A year ago, in introducing the bill, prime sponsor Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, pushed the theme of immediacy on his House Web site: “It is fashionable these days to see who can come up with the plan that reduces energy consumption the most. I think most Americans want a different kind of competition â€” one that tries to see how we can increase domestic energy production the fastest [emphasis added.]”
A year later, he ‘fessed up to the Times Herald News of Wichita Falls that “immediate” isn’t “today”: “If we passed this bill today, it doesnâ€™t mean gas goes cheap today.” But in an election year, that little bit of “truthiness” gets buried by the minority party in the House.
Meanwhile, in the Pompous Use of Rhetoric to Avoid Responsibility for High Gas Prices Department, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., has challenged all 435 members of the House to sign a petition that reads: “I will vote to increase U.S. oil production to lower gas prices for Americans.” So far, all but five of the 191 who have signed are Republicans. And yes, Rep. Kuhl has signed on as well.
The No More Excuses bill has 79 co-sponsors. I wonder what their franked mailings are telling their constituents about high gasoline prices.