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by Scott Bennett    Sun, Oct 9, 2005, 01:43 pm

I did something this weekend I bet no one else in America did: I read HR3893 the just passed and so-called "Gasoline for America's Security Act" by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis). It passed the House last week on a 212 vs.. 210 vote with nary a Democrat voting "yes" and a handful of Republicans voting "no."

Rep. Barton passed an Energy Bill earlier in the year that I didn't read. It simply got too large a bipartisan vote. In my experience "bi-partisan" is another term for "got pork." People I trust in Washington DC say it will do some good someday but agree it was mostly a porker intended let congressman claim they did something.

But this was close and deeply partisan vote so it surely did a lot of good or a lot of bad. Having read the bill I would recommend that every American get on the phone to their US Senator and demand they support the bill or face retirement. Yes, detractors are right in saying that the price of gasoline and home heating oil won't budge a penny upon passage. But they will budge a lot in a few years. Fail to pass this bill and they will be up and away.

The reason America has high energy prices is that it has limited refinery capacity. The US consumes 21 million barrels of oil per day but has the capacity to refine only 16 million - on a really good day. The US hasn't built any new refineries in 30 years. This isn't by accident. The environmental lobby seeks to starve the economy of energy just as conservatives once sought to starve the Federal government of tax revenues (to Bush conservatives tax revenues no longer seem to have a bearing spending). Bottlenecks drive up prices and higher prices cut consumption. If you are looking for a conspiracy driving high energy prices look not further than the Greens and the national Democratic party.

Joe Barton's bill opens the gates to rapidly enlarging the nation's refinery capacity and that opens the doors to lower prices - much lower. Barton's act does provide tax subsidies to refiners and that steams many Democrats who think oil companies are making enough to build these refineries on their own. Yes, today the margins on refining are decent but only a few months back they were thin to non-existent. More, the permitting process to build a new refinery was purposely onerous. The refinery business is a bad business. Investment will come only when investors believe a legal and economic regime exists that gives them a fighting chance to make a fair return. That is all Barton's bill does.

Actually it does do more. It addresses conservation in real terms. It also opens Alaska National Wildlife Reserve to drilling. Personally I have never understood such concern over keeping a place pristine that no one will ever see. But more sensitive souls than me who are not otherwise committed Greens see the value. It also appears that this oil will do us no real good. It is simply a line in the sand that Democrats will not cross and Rep. Barton would do well to remove it.

This is clearly the bill of the session and probably the election. If Republicans can convince Americans that this is a real chance to achieve lower prices they can overcome all their current problems. No wonder Democrats are willing to claim the bill is nothing but a fat hog for big oil. That they do so is to their disgrace.

NOTE: The bill allows the President to build a refinery specifically to provide gasoline to the Armed Forces. Why not a provision that would allow the nation's airlines to jointly own and operate a refineries dedicated to jet fuel. A national asset is going under because of jet fuel refinery costs approaching the cost of the oil itself. Let the airlines control their own future.


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