I watched some of the recent Congressional grilling of oil industry executives and was struck by how gracious they were. I would have been so indiscreet as to respond by suggesting that Congress was far more to blame for high oil prices than Big Oil.
Mark Steyn also seems to have had negative thoughts about the Congressional hearings:
I was watching the Big Oil execs testifying before Congress. That was my first mistake. If memory serves, there was lesbian mud wrestling over on Channel 137, and on the whole that's less rigged. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz knew the routine: "I can't say that there is evidence that you are manipulating the price, but I believe that you probably are. So prove to me that you are not."
Had I been in the hapless oil man's expensive shoes, I'd have answered, "Hey, you first. I can't say that there is evidence that you're sleeping with barnyard animals, but I believe that you probably are. So prove to me that you are not. Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence and prima facie evidence, lady? Do I have to file a U.N. complaint in Geneva that the House of Representatives is in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?"
But that's why I don't get asked to testify before Congress. So instead the Big Oil guy oozed as oleaginous as his product before the grand panjandrums of the House Sub-Committee on Televised Posturing, and then they went off and passed by 324 to 82 votes the so-called NOPEC bill. The NOPEC bill is, in effect, a suit against OPEC, which, if I recall correctly, stands for the Oil Price-Exploiting Club. . . .
"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? . . .
[I]f the House of Representatives has now declared it "illegal" for the government of Saudi Arabia to restrict oil production, why is it still legal for the Government of the United States to restrict oil production? In fact, the government of the United States restricts pretty much every form of energy production other than the bizarre fetish du jour of federally mandated ethanol production.
I view the oil crisis as mainly resulting from two forces, Supply and Demand: (1) supply restrictions — substantial government restrictions on mining coal and drilling for oil, and (2) huge increases in demand from newly emerging economies (eg, China, India, Brazil).
When is Congress going to let capitalism reduce our energy problems?
As for restrictions on coal, this one is the most galling:
A large part of America's energy dependence on foreign sources can be traced to Sept. 18, 1996, when President Bill Clinton stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon on the Arizona side and signed an executive proclamation making 1.7 million acres of Utah a new national monument.
Why would he dedicate a Utah monument while standing in Arizona? Well, this federal land grab was done without any consultation with the governor of Utah or any member of the Utah congressional delegation or any elected official in the state. The unfriendly Utah natives might have spoiled his photo-op.
The state already had six national monuments, two national recreation areas and all or part of five national forests. Three-quarters of Utah already was in federal hands. Still, the land grab was sold as a move to protect the environment. . . .
In fact, the declaration of 1.7 million Utah acres as a national monument, thereby depriving an energy-starved U.S. up to 62 billion tons of environmentally safe low-sulfur coal worth $1.2 trillion and minable with minimal surface impact, was a political payoff to the family of James Riady.
He's the son of Lippo Group owner Mochtar Riady. James was found guilty of — and paid a multimillion dollar fine for — funneling more than $1 million in illegal political contributions through Lippo Bank into various American political campaigns, including Bill Clinton's presidential run in 1992.
Clinton took off the world market the largest known deposit of clean-burning coal. And who owned and controlled the second-largest deposit in the world of this clean coal? The Indonesian Lippo Group of James Riady. It is found and strip-mined on the Indonesian island of Kalimantan.
The Utah reserve contains a kind of low-sulfur, low-ash and therefore low-polluting coal that can be found in only a couple of places in the world. It burns so cleanly that it meets the requirements of the Clean Air Act without additional technology.
"The mother of all land grabs," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said at the time. He has called what was designated as the Grande Staircase of the Escalante National Monument the "Saudi Arabia of coal." . . .
Rep. James Hansen, R-Utah, pointed out that a large portion of the coal-rich Kaiparowits Plateau within the monument belonged to the children of Utah. When Utah became a state in 1896, about 220,000 acres were set aside for development, and a trust fund was created to collect and hold all the revenues directly for the benefit of schools.
Margaret Bird, trust officer for the fund, said that because the land will not be developed, the schools stand to lose as much as $1 billion over the next 50 years.