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America's Energy Held Hostage By: Humberto Fontova
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 23, 2008

No sooner did President Bush lift the executive ban on oil exploration in the outer Continental Shelf then Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, put the kibosh to its prospects.

“The only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the US Congress,” said President Bush last week.

“The president of the United States, with gas at $4 a gallon because of his failed energy policies, is now trying to say that is because I couldn’t drill offshore,” quickly countered the House Speaker. “That is not the cause, and I am not going to let him get away with it.”

A recent CNN  poll showed more than 73 percent of Americans in favor of offshore drilling. But the House Speaker can keep the issue from even reaching a vote, and Pelosi seems bent on just that.

“(In California) We learned the hard way that oil and water do not mix on our coast,” she said back in 1996. Pelosi was referring, of course, to the famous Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969, an event that serves as the Alamo of the anti-drilling cause.

This spill was a very localized accident with no fatalities, and involving (by today's standards) primitive technology.  It seems the superstitions of the Speaker of the House will put a chokehold on the American economy for some time to come.

Imagine the caterwauling if the views of a legislator from rural Mississippi determined the status of gay marriage in San Francisco. But San Franciscans' views on procuring energy affect practically every facet of a Mississippians (and the rest of Americans') lives.

Today’s drilling technology compares to the one used only 20 years ago about like the Kitty Hawk compares to a jumbo jet. Market forces, not meddlesome bureaucrats, account for cleaner, safer oil drilling. Today a deep-water drilling rig costs half a million dollars a day to rent. A blowout and spill would negate such a gigantic investment. No oil company could long stay in business that way.

As it happed, no people died during that extremely freakish accident off Santa Barbara while an oil co. procured the very lifeblood of America's economy. But some beachfront homeowners were discomfited (and fully compensated by Oil Co., UNOCAl) and the aesthetic sensibilities of many California greenies were temporarily traumatized.

As luck would have it, the current brou-ha-ha over federal regulations on offshore drilling just happens to coincide with one over federal regulations on offshore fishing, resulting (even if unwittingly) in more evidence in favor of the former, and against the environmentalist superstitions that block it.

Federal regulators have recently divined that in the Gulf of Mexico, Red Snapper are “overfished” and these fish stocks “collapsing.” You might recall that Federal Bureaucrats recently divined that Polar Bears were “threatened” when in fact people who actually live amongst them claim they're more numerous than ever.

Well, the identical thing with Red Snapper. Gulf coast fishermen and divers claim that Red Snapper stocks—far from collapsing—are actually as healthy as ever, the fish much more numerous, in fact, than ten years ago. This writer has been fishing and Scuba Diving off the Louisiana coast for over 35 years and concurs fully with his cohorts from Florida to Texas.

But Federal bureaucrats notoriously scorn such “anecdotal” and “hearsay” data. Therefore, the limits and seasons for this commercially-valuable fish have been reduced drastically. As in the Polar Bear case, the Feds relied primarily on “computer models” for their decision.

Enter now a properly scientific study by Dr Bob Shipp, professor at the Marine Sciences department of the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama, and currently, the vice-chair of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council. Dr Shipp's study fully backs our anecdotes, but here's the important stuff: “The Red snapper catch changed radically in the 1950s, (when the first offshore oil platforms went up off Louisiana). More recently, the red snapper catch from the northwestern Gulf (Louisiana, with it's oil platforms) is currently estimated 6 to 7 times greater (italics mine) than the catch from the eastern Gulf (Florida, without oil platforms.)"

It gets better: “oil platforms as artificial reefs....support fish densities 10 to 1000 times that of adjacent sand and mud bottom, and almost always exceed fish densities found at both adjacent artificial reefs and natural hard bottom. Evidence indicates that massive areas of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico were essentially empty of snapper stocks for the first hundred years of the fishery. Subsequently, areas in the western Gulf have become the major source of red snapper, concurrent with the appearance of thousands of petroleum platforms” (italics mine).

Today, Louisiana produces one third of America's commercial fisheries. The oil production platforms off the Bayou state's coasts also produce 80 percent of the oil and 72 percent of the natural gas produced in the U.S., without causing a single major oil spill in half a century of this process. This record stands despite dozens of hurricanes – including the two most destructive in North American history, Camille and Katrina – repeatedly battering the drilling and production structures.

Some collateral effects of this oil exploration and production also include mucho dinero generated by recreational fishing (our marinas show many license plates even from Florida.) And a total impact – from payroll, to fees for contractors and vendors, etc. – of $70 billion into the Louisiana economy by the oil industry as a whole. $1.5 billion of this is looted by the state as taxes and royalties, straight into its coffers.

Hear that Democrats? This type of plunder against the private sector just might be the type of thing to sway Democrats. So let's get cracking and start drilling—and fishing.

Humberto Fontova is the author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him. Visit www.hfontova.com

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