The more I read about the Democrats’ divisions on drilling, the more I’m inclined to believe that the Gang of 16 is actually negotiating against themselves. There’s an article in Roll Call that encapsulates why Senate Republicans should respectfully decline to meet the Democrats’ demands. Here’s what jumped off the page at me:

House Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WVA) also acknowledged that Democrats don’t have the votes to pass a continuing resolution that would retain the offshore drilling ban. Rahall said that if it expired, drilling would be allowed as close as three miles to shore.

First, some important process-related information. Continuing resolutions must originate in the House of Representatives. If Democrats can’t pass a CR that extends the drilling ban, the die will have been cast before it reaches the Senate.

This is important for this reason: If Democrats can’t pass a CR with a drilling ban in it, they’ll have to pass one that lets the moratoria lapse. That means that President Bush wouldn’t have to veto a CR. That means Democrats can’t accuse President Bush of shutting down the government. If the government shuts down, it’ll place the burden squarely on Nancy Pelosi’s shoulders.

That’s huge because a government shutdown would happen just a month before the elections. Does anyone seriously think that Democrats would benefit from shutting down the government in opposition to lifting the moratoria that 70 percent of Americans want lifted a month before going to the polls?

If Speaker Pelosi were that foolish, she’d cause a House GOP landslide.

That’s just one reason why the Gang of 16 negotiating with Senate Democrats isn’t smart strategy. Here’s another explanation why it isn’t wise:

The bill would open up a tiny little smidgen of space on the Outer Continental Shelf for oil and gas exploration, just enough that Democrats who vote for it can claim to be pro-drilling, neutralizing one of the Republicans’ most energizing issues going into the November elections. But the benefits of the bill’s meager drilling provisions would be negated (and then some) by $30 billion in tax hikes on U.S. oil companies, placing our own domestic producers at an additional disadvantage compared to their overseas competitors. In exchange for very little new supply, these companies would pay higher taxes related to the crucial activities of exploration and refinery-capacity expansion. To nobody’s great surprise, the industry is not eager to accept this trade.

It’s time to get smart in negotiating with Democrats. They’re panicking because they’re in charge of Congress. If they do nothing, they know they’ll get creamed this November. Not only would they get the political cover they desperately covet but they’d also energize their environmental allies right before the election.

Here’s another consideration that’s worth pondering:

The government is simply no good at picking winners and losers in the energy market (or any market, for that matter). Renewable energy works when it comes from consumer-driven innovation, not from politics. The government has been subsidizing inefficient forms of renewable energy for decades, and it has gotten us nowhere. Ethanol subsidies are a case in point: The 2005 energy bill mandated the use of ethanol in gasoline. As farmers shifted corn production from food to fuel, corn prices (and, consequently, meat and dairy prices) skyrocketed. Corn ethanol, inefficient as a gasoline additive, had a negative impact on gas mileage as refiners used more of it.

What did the government do in response to this failure? It increased the ethanol mandate five-fold in 2007. Now the Gang of 16 wants even more subsidies for biofuels, though the emphasis has shifted from corn-based ethanol to other, more experimental forms made from trees and grass. These biofuel subsidies explain why the gang has attracted Republicans like Saxby Chambliss, Johnny Isakson, John Thune, and Bob Corker, all of whom come from states that stand to reap tremendous financial benefits from biofuel handouts. We should call this what it is: A sop to a large and growing special-interest group.

America has realized that ethanol mandates aren’t smart policy. We know that it drives up commodity prices. We’ve learned that ethanol gets worthless gas mileage, meaning it’s counterproductive in weaning us from foreign oil. It’s time that politicians let the markets work. If something’s viable, investors will find it and support it.

If government wants to assist, let them fund studies into the viability of various types of alternative energy. That should be the extent of their involvement. PERIOD.

President Bush has made it clear that he will not sign any bill that renews the ban. All Republicans have to do is stand with the president and let the ban expire. No new taxes. No new spending. Just a new supply of domestically produced energy.

Nervous Republicans will privately say that it’s difficult siding with President Bush on oil. I say nonsense. On this issue, President Bush is on the side of the angels as far as the public is concerned. While President Bush’s overall job approval rating is in the low 30’s, his job approval rating on this issue is in the 70 percent range. That’s the number Gang of 16 Republicans need to focus on.

My advice to the Gang of 16 is simple: Stop negotiating with desperate Democrats and accept victory instead of negotiating defeat from a position of strength.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

2 Responses to “Attention Gang Of 16: Stop Negotiating & Accept Victory”

  • Walter hanson says:

    Don’t the Republicans understand we’re going to get something better because Nancy can’t pass the cr. Don’t they have a brain. I thought Thome did.

    Walter Hanson
    Minneapolis, MN

  • J. Ewing says:

    And Coleman is one of them, too. What I don’t understand is why this isn’t just dirt simple. I know common sense is highly uncommon amongst the elected class, but still: Why are there any restrictions on drilling at all? It doesn’t cost the taxpayer a nickel, and in fact oil companies will pay US for the leases! How smart do you have to be to just /let/ them? How stupid do you have to be to tell them they can’t give you money AND fuel?

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