Posted for Jeff Tollefson
The price of petrol in the United States has actually come down in recent weeks, and by European standards it was never that high to begin with. But you wouldn’t know it looking at the news. With the November elections approaching, Democrats and Republicans have officially engaged in a (frequently rhetorical) battle over energy policy.
Democratic contender Barack Obama came out over the weekend and said he would be willing to consider expanding offshore drilling as part of a broader energy compromise proposed last week by a bipartisan group of senators. And on Monday Obama proposed a clever way to tap the petroleum reserve without really drawing it down (by releasing high-quality light crude and filling it up with cheap, heavy crude). Video here.
Republicans have charged Obama with the classic campaign “flip-flopping,” but to his credit he has expressed a willingness to compromise on difficult issues, an attitude that is hard to come by in Washington. He has also laid out a broader plan to boost renewables and deploy plug-in-hybrids and other alternative fuel vehicles. On the other hand, he is toeing the Democratic line by advocating cash rebates for working families that would be paid for with a portion of the “record profits the oil companies are making right now.”
Republican John McCain apparently thinks he has a winning issue on energy prices, one of the few issues that might benefit Republicans in November. He pushed for more nuclear power during a campaign stop in Michigan Tuesday and would appear to believe that there is no room for compromise on drilling: “We have to drill here and drill now. Not wait and see if there’s areas to explore, not wait and see if there’s a package to put together,” he said. “But drill here and drill now.”
None of these proposals are likely to do much to bring down oil prices in the short term, of course, but now is surely the time to engage in a thoughtful discussion about what our energy portfolio might look like a decade from now.
Unfortunately, there’s little evidence that either party is up for more than grandstanding and political antics. Indeed, Republicans in the House of Representatives have staged what they are calling an “uprising” by refusing to go on vacation this week. For live updates on their activities in an otherwise shuttered capitol building, read along as House Minority Leader John Boehner Twitters.
Image: oil refinery / Getty