Has the House Oil Party had an effect on Nancy Pelosi? Perhaps more than she’d like to admit. Last night, on Larry King Live, Pelosi reversed herself to some extent and said she would back a vote on drilling in the OCS as long as it came as part of a comprehensive energy package. However, as The Hill points out, she said the same thing right before she adjourned the House to avoid such a vote:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday night dropped her staunch opposition to a vote on offshore oil drilling in the House.
Republicans, reacting to high gas prices, have demanded a vote on additional oil exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf, where drilling is currently blocked by a moratorium. Until now, Pelosi (D-Calif.) has resisted the idea as a “hoax.” But in an interview on CNN’s Larry King Live, she indicated that she was open to a vote.
“They have this thing that says drill offshore in the protected areas,” Pelosi said. “We can do that. We can have a vote on that.”
She indicated such a vote would have to be part of a larger package that included other policies, like releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which she said could bring down prices in a matter of days.
TheSPR gimmick just won’t die, and it’s hard to tell who’s supporting it for whom. Is Barack Obama prattling on about it to provide cover for Pelosi, or the other way around? It’s as much a gimmick as the gas-tax holiday, and just as effective in the long run for fuel prices. Even a 10% release would only provide enough oil for a few days of American consumption, and might at best provide a few weeks of price declines — assuming producers don’t tighten production to protect their prices. Eventually, the US will have to replace the oil that got released, and the heightened demand will provide yet another shock to the global market.
And, of course, with war in the Caucasus threatening energy supplies, this is the perfect time to short the US’s strategic reserve, intended to ensure our military operations around the world. Brilliant!
Anyway, don’t get too excited. If Pelosi sounds reasonable now, she’s only parroting what she said just before retreating redeploying over the Capitol Hill event horizon earlier:
Pelosi had previously said she would allow a vote on drilling and then backed off. On July 30, the last day Congress was in before the August recess, she was interviewed by the Capitol Hill press corps. She was asked if she could envision a vote on drilling in new areas this year, and she answered, “Of course.”
But her aides later released a statement saying she was not announcing a change in her stance on a drilling vote.
The Republicans will force a vote on her, one way or the other. Actually, Pelosi needs a vote to extend the moratorium, which usually gets attached as an amendment to appropriations bills. If such an amendment gets tacked on in September, House Republicans have threatened to block it, and want a commitment from President Bush to veto it. They believe a shutdown of the government over this issue will deliver a strong message to voters that they are prepared to go to the mat for a rational energy policy.
On October 1st, without that extension of the moratorium, the OCS and shale formations become available for exploration. If Pelosi wants to control that at the federal level before the states start issuing leases and permits, she has to cut a deal with the Republicans. All this means is that Pelosi has recognized political reality.