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The price of crude is hovering around $115 / bbl.  At this point, I suspect it won’t make much motion, especially not downward, until some real action is finally taken by Congress to open up drilling.  I agree with the refrain of Republicans to do “all of the above”, that is, work the alternative energy agenda while opening update domestic drilling.  The market will continue to laugh at us on the alternative energy options (by the way, we’ve had Ethanol in the US since World War I, so let’s stop acting like alternative fuels are “new”).  But as we engage with definitive action, we will continue to see the impact on commodity prices.

The sad thing is that the market is so clearly expressing it’s ability to react to political events even when there is no tangible change in availability of domestic oil.  Yet the politicians on the Left continue to act like there’s no relationship.  Like the salesmen in the story “The Emporer’s New Clothes”, Democrats believe that as long as they continue to repeat the lies, Americans will believe them.

It’s not working.

Americans are becoming progressively impatient with Congress.  As I’ve been interacting with people in my community and at work, I’m finding more and more just take the foolishness of Congress for granted, and that the truth is in front of everyone’s noses.  I’ve never seen so much exasperation.  Simple message: nobody’s really being fooled by this.

In response to an email I sent to Tom Harkin, there is evidence that Dems really believe that if they ignore the truth and repeat their mantras that everything will work out.  Harkin’s classic response to any input I try to share with him is to basically ignore my comments and then tell me what he’s going to do, why, an essentially feed me the same garbage the Democrats are trying to feed everyone about the availability of  resources in the US to support our country’s needs over time.  Granted, I don’t expect him to just do my bidding, and his response this time is not as bad as some of the prior attempts at treating me like a school boy that needs educating.  But his response is patently lacking credibility, including feeding me insipid suggestions like “inflating tires”.

And I can’t believe he’s getting a bunch of emails from other constituents saying “Please continue doing what you’re doing.  I like paying high prices for oil and can’t wait until we force all Americans to stop using gas powered cars and switch to electric or natural gas powered vehicles.”  And when a Congressman is not listening to his constituents, but rather attempting to change the minds of all of the constituents, that can spell disaster.

We can only hope.

My email to Harkin, Boswell, and Grassley (admittedly, I’m impressed that Harkin replied… I’ve heard nothing from the other two) was this:

Our dependence on foreign powers for sources of key raw materials, especially to provide fuel, is becoming untenable.  I completely understand the concerns of those that want to protect valuable natural habitats and areas of clean untarnished beauty throughout our country.  However, relying on foreign concerns who are intent upon taking advantage of our need for energy resources is simply not working, and in many ways, is starting to make the US seem unintelligent in its dealings and inability to manage its dependence on foreign markets by closing its own internal access to the same resources.  I am anxious to see us build and leverage cleaner solutions for energy, and support any efforts to improve these technologies.  However, we do, and will continue to for a long time, need access to oil, and we need to keep the money spent on this oil within our own economy instead of pouring it out on the rest of the world and diluting its value.

Please support efforts to open up domestic drilling, including off-shore and ANWR.  Please become a leader in a bipartisan effort to make access to domestic oil resources a reality as soon as possible.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and thank you for your fine work!


Art Smith

Here is Harkin’s reply:

Dear Arthur:

At a time when Americans are working harder to make ends meet, I share your concern about the high cost of gasoline. Iowans are paying record prices and it’s creating a ripple effect throughout our economy and the problem only seems to be getting worse. These prices make living our daily lives a real challenge. I am fully committed to changing the course of America’s energy policy – to transition America away from our crippling dependence on foreign sources of oil.

These debilitating prices are due in part to a sharp increase in demand over the last few years in places like China and India, an ever weakening dollar, and supply disruptions in volatile places like Nigeria and Iraq – these price pressures are forecast to get worse in the foreseeable future. It is clear that we must chart a new energy course for America – one that aggressively invests in new technologies and pursues energy efficiency that will derive more value from all of our energy resources. And, we must turn to renewable energy sources, a common-sense solution that will help wean us off of foreign oil, stimulate the rural economy, and improve environmental quality. This is a long-term commitment that requires participation at the indi lJidual f corporate, ,and gcverr1rne~~ltal levels ..

In recent weeks, there have been renewed calls to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling and to add more areas to the lands already available for drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) as a solution to high gas prices. But not only will this fail to decrease the cost of gas in the short-term, it does not address our very serious long-term energy needs. For that reason, I will continue to focus my efforts in Washington on a new national energy strategy. As you indicate in your letter, fossil fuels are absolutely an essential component of this energy infrastructure. I have supported and will continue to support appropriate steps to build our supply. I have repeatedly called for construction of the Alaska natural gas pipeline, and I voted for the energy bills in 2005 and 2007, which contained numerous incentives and provisions for the development of fossil fuels. But again, opening up ANWR and new areas of the OCS to drilling will simply not significantly decrease the price of gasoline or diesel, and does not address our very serious long-term energy situation.

According to leading experts, opening ANWR or other regions like the OCS to drilling would have no significant effect on our dependence on foreign oil or on the price of gas at the pump. Indeed, estimates are that drilling in ANWR would produce only the equivalent of a six month supply of oil, starting 10 years from now and continuing over about a 20 year production period. The Energy Information Association forecasts that opening up ANWR would only decrease the cost of gas 1-4 cents at the pump and only after 10-20 years. Under the current GOP proposal on the table, no energy would be produced until 2017 and it would be 2030 before full production comes on line, and when it does, it would have a minimal impact on prices. What the GOP leadership fails to mention is that 79% of America’s recoverable oil reserves are already currently open for drilling, that oil companies have not tapped millions of productive acres already open, and that the areas on the west and east coasts that could be important to drilling have no oil drilling infrastructure- no oil rigs, no pipelines to the shore, and no refineries at the end of those pipelines.

Opening up more areas to leasing will produce too little oil and only after 5 to 10 years or more – and there are no guarantees. There are more enduring options that can be developed just as quickly. In the same amount time, with the right investment and national energy plan, we could develop alternatives that improve efficiencies and create alternatives to secure our energy future. For example, based on the U.S.G.S. projections of the amount of oil in ANWR, an increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards for vehicles by about 2 miles per gallon saves more oil than ANWR could ever provide. Plug-in hybrid vehicles could be widely available within 10 years, and they can both double efficiencies and derive the majority of their fuel from the electric grid which is increasingly supplied by clean wind or geothermal or solar power. We also expect significant and growing production of advanced biofuels made from dedicated biomass energy crops, forest materials, and municipal wastes within10 years. All of these approaches provide a much more enduring approach to addressing our oil dependence problem. These are solutions that will last.

As Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee in the 107th Congress, I added the first-ever energy title into the Farm Bill and in the 2008 Farm Bill, I included a much more ambitious energy title that will invest in new technologies to help meet our nation’s energy needs for years to come. The 2008 Farm Bill also closed the so-called “Enron loophole,” and restored the critical authority of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to oversee and regulate the trading of futures contracts that affect the price of oil, gasoline and other energy products. I am now

working to enact additional legislation that will further strengthen federal oversight and enforcement to keep energy markets fair, honest, and free of manipulation or price distortion. And I’ve backed legislation and Congressional oversight to make sure that the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice have all the power they need — and that they use it — to prevent, root out and prosecute collusion, price-fixing or price manipulation in markets for gasoline or other petroleum products.

And last December, Congress we passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. This bill increases our Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) focusing on advanced biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol, creating thousands of economic opportunities in our rural communities. It also sets high efficiency standards for our appliances, buildings and utilities and raises mileage standards for our cars and light truck~ to 35 miles per gallon over the next 15 years. Again, it is important to note that by raising the fuel efficiency standards by just 2 mpg, we are saving more oil than would be produced by drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Also, this bill invests heavily in carbon capture and storage methods, which will allow us to capture the greenhouse gases from our coal power plants and it creates safeguards for consumers against price gouging during national emergencies.

There is more that Congress can and should do. I strongly supported a debate about S. 3044, the Consumer First Energy Act of 2008, and am disappointed that this legislation failed to be considered on a party line vote. This Act would amend the Internal Revenue Code to deny major oil producing companies a tax deduction on profits attributable to domestic production of oil, limit the ability of these companies to claim foreign tax credits, and would impose a 25% windfall profit tax on oil companies unless the invested the funds in renewable energy sources. The revenue raised from these actions would be placed in an Energy Independence and Security Trust Fund that would be used to expand the development of renewable energy sources.

Rest assured, I will continue to work on this vital issue to ensure that Iowans pay a fair price at the pump. In the meantime, there are many simple steps that individuals can take to reduce our gasoline bills. Inflating tires, combining trips whenever possible, driving with the speed limits and similar steps can all help to reduce miles or increase miles driven on a gallon of fuel.

Thank you again for your comments and sharing your frustration. Should you have any additional concerns regarding this matter, please feel free to contact my office.


Tom Harkin

The part that scares me most is when he says “…I will continue to work on this…”.

Tom: Please.  Don’t.

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