Friday, March 18, 2011

Democratic energy antics

Amidst rising gas prices, The Hill notes that congressional Democrats -- the party traditionally associated with opposition to expanded oil drilling -- have come up with a strategy of sorts to avoid getting clobbered by Republicans over the issue. I had to keep reading to see what nonsense the Democrats would conjure up, as they almost invariably eschew obvious market-based steps -- such as increasing supply in this instance -- in favor of half-baked schemes rooted in the rich loam of fanciful thinking and big government.

The solutions currently being bandied about certainly do not disappoint in this regard:
One idea comes from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who wants the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to act immediately to limit excessive price speculation in the oil markets.

Another comes from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who has urged the State Department to press oil-producing nations to increase their production while the U.S. economy continues to recover from the 2008 financial collapse.

A third idea, put forward by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), would give the Justice Department authority to prosecute OPEC member nations that collude to boost the price of oil.

...Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) along with Charles Schumer (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, touted a bill that would fine companies $4 for every acre of leased public land or water they have yet to drill.
To summarize, the ideas being put forth by Democrats are:
  • Punishing speculators, which mainstream economists understand serve a valuable role by increasing market efficiency. Remember, speculators only make money when they are right. Sen. Klobuchar, in other words, simply wants to shoot the messenger.
  • Sending diplomats around the world to beg for other countries to increase production. Sadly, this is probably the least-ridiculous of the measures proposed.
  • Dispatching Eric Holder to pursue OPEC members with subpoenas.
  • Fining companies that haven't drilled. In other words, punishing them for failing to despoil the natural environment in a sufficiently timely manner. Nevermind that every barrel of oil left in the ground is one that can be saved for future consumption.
Taking center stage at this theater of the absurd is the fact that if Democrats were at all consistent they would be celebrating the rise in gas prices, as it is the very thing that can help make their green energy dreams come true. It is absolutely incoherent to favor both green jobs/technology while decrying the surge of fuel costs that makes such technology more commercially viable.

One cannot also help but suspect that if the high gas prices were due to energy taxes that provided revenue for the US Treasury, instead of supply restrictions that help fill the coffers of oil companies, these politicians would be singing a different tune.

Lastly, I'll note that Republicans who use episodes of rising oil prices to call for a national energy policy are equally misguided. The last thing that anyone who claims to stand for limited government should be doing is advocating an expanded government role in energy or the picking of energy winners and losers by politicians.

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