There are troubling whispers in Washington that John McCain might soon endorse the Gang of 16 Energy Proposal. It would be a terrible mistake for John McCain to sign on to this plan. The plan is both bad politics and bad policy.
For the past several months, John McCain has ridden the energy issue, moreso than any other single issue, to the top of the polls. Governor Palin, one of the nation's leading proponents of domestic energy production, further solidifies John McCain as the candidate who takes the energy issue seriously.
To endorse the Gang of 16 plan would undermine Senator McCain's credibility on the issue. In addition to the terrible politics of the plan for Republicans, the plan itself is terrible, terrible policy.
*Right now, if we do nothing, the entire Outer Continental Shelf ("OCS") will open up for exploration on October 1, 2008. * Under the Gang of 16 plan, most of the OCS, roughly 80%, will remain locked up. John McCain has favored opening up the OCS. His support of this plan would directly contradict his call for expanded exploration.
The plan would only allow drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and off the coasts of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Even then, it would not open up those areas, but allow those states to opt in to a burdensome, confiscatory federal leasing program. And still, drilling could not take place less than fifty miles from the coast, taking coastal reserves off the table.
The plan would also, for the first time, permanently ban drilling in all other OCS locations. Currently, the ban must be renewed annually.
10 billion barrels of oil and 18 trillion cubic feet of natural gas would be permanently untouchable off the Pacific Coast.
10 billion barrels of oil and 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas would be permanently untouchable in ANWR.
2 billion barrels of oil and 18 trillion cubic feet of natural gas would be permanently untouchable in the Atlantic.
That is 29 years worth of imports from the Persian Gulf still untouchable and inaccessible because of the Gang of 16's plan.
John McCain says he wants to decrease our dependence on foreign dictators. To endorse this plan to would give the lie to that claim.
Even worse, the Gang of 16 would add an additional $30 billion in tax increases to the energy industry. That is a tax increase they would pass on to consumers in the form of higher fuel prices. This is a punitive tax. Any Economics 101 student can tell you a punitive tax will hamper efforts, not expand efforts in the taxed industry. The Institute for Energy Research estimates 637,000 jobs would be lost because of the plan.
Likewise, the Gang of 16 would increase charges to oil companies for extraction of oil from the Gulf of Mexico. They would make it more expensive to drill for oil -- a cost that would either keep the energy industry from drilling or drive up costs for consumers.
Lastly, the plan would do nothing to curtail environmentalist organizations from suing to stop expanded energy production ? a tactic that has successfully delayed and, in some cases, completely stopped exploration of domestic energy reserves.
John McCain and Sarah Palin say they are the real reformers. Driving up the costs of doing business and half hearted compromises are "politics as usual" solutions from Washington. Today, the opponents of buying American energy are on the ropes; this is no time to let them off the hook. A McCain-Palin Administration, if elected, will have an unambiguous mandate to expand all sources of domestic energy production, and will be able to command bipartisan support for a truly comprehensive energy solution.
John McCain should oppose the plan, and unleash Sarah Palin to demonstrate her experience and expertise on energy issues. And if today's Congress can't or won't choose a real plan for domestic energy production, Sen. McCain, Gov. Palin and Capitol Hill Republicans should trust the American people to make that choice for them on Election Day.