Will the GOP trade wind and solar subsidies to lift the crude oil export ban?

A long-time goal for many energy minded conservatives may finally be on the horizon this week as congress considers lifting the more than forty year old ban on crude oil exports as part of the next spending bill. This would be great news for jobs and the economy, not to mention giving us some leverage to help out our allies who currently rely on Russian and middle eastern suppliers. Unfortunately, such a boon still requires help from at least some of the Democrats and their attitude is less than positive. The Hill was interviewing a few of them on Thursday evening, and while they’re not exactly saying no, they are clearly seeing this as less of a chance to help out their constituents and more of an opportunity to hold Republicans over a barrel to extract very expensive concessions. A couple of the key quotes:

“It’s an act of desperation on their part, they want it so desperately,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying she could see a scenario in which she would support lifting the ban…

“It clearly is an item that [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell and Republicans are salivating over,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told The Huffington Post. “It would be a windfall to the industry. We don’t know how much some have estimated — $20 [billion], $30 billion a year in profits if they are allowed to do this.”

You’ll note that Durbin isn’t even attempting the usual dodge of pretending to worry about climate change or any of that nonsense. He’s worried that an American energy company which employs millions of workers might make some additional profits. How very American of him.

But still, the lack of any sort of guiding principles on the part of the Democrats is truly on display here. If this were really such a terrible thing for the country (and the planet!) they wouldn’t be considering it at all. But they are, providing the price is right, and the price will be high indeed. The Dems are already lining up some demands which would cost a fortune and essentially offset some of the gains we’ve made through domestic energy independence. At the top of the list, of course, is keeping the gravy train going for the floundering solar and wind energy industries.

At the top of their wish list is the extension of federal tax credits for renewable energy generation. But, signaling that might not be enough to satisfy Democratic demands, lawmakers have put forth additional trade-offs they want in exchange for lifting the ban…

While lawmakers wouldn’t discuss the specifics of what’s being negotiated, they said talks have largely centered on how long the renewed tax incentives for wind and solar power would last.

Some Democrats’ requests are stout: Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a liberal who has opposed expanded oil exports, said 10 years should be the minimum under discussion. Others, though, have discussed two or five years.

Senator Tom Carper has additional demands, specifically seeking subsidies for American refineries which may be “damaged” by losing some crude products to overseas markets. That probably sounds a little odd at first glance… an east coast Democrat fighting for the benefit of oil refineries? But it all becomes clear when you remember that Carper represents Delaware, and for such a small state it’s got an impressive oil refinery capacity providing plenty of jobs for his constituents. The hypocrisy on display is staggering.

Lifting the ban is an important goal but is it worth it at this price? Continuing to prop up solar and wind companies at the taxpayer’s expense is getting us nowhere. Even Carper’s call for additional subsidies for refineries is antithetical to the cause. Democrats seem to assume that conservatives are just in love with the oil industry, but the idea is to get rid of all subsidies, not to increase some of them for our friends. I’m not saying that some amount of wheeling and dealing should kill the plan entirely, but the price tag on this is sounding awfully high to me.