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By Robert Rapier on Jul 29, 2008 with no responses

My Drilling Proposal is on the Table

I said I wasn’t going to update until Wednesday, but have a little free time this morning. Imagine my surprise to read this headline today:

Senate Democrats offer deal to break energy bill standstill

Turns out they are proposing the same deal that I proposed in my essay from last week on coming to a compromise on the drilling question:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid surprised Republicans on Monday by offering them a chance to vote this week on four GOP-backed amendments to an energy bill, including one that would expand offshore oil drilling.

The possible breakthrough comes days before Congress recesses for August and lawmakers return home to face constituents anxious for relief at fuel pumps.

Reid, D-Nevada, said Democrats would allow votes on GOP amendments that would permit new drilling on the outer continental shelf; the development of oil shale in Western states; construction of new nuclear power plants; and broader legislation that Republicans have dubbed “find more, use less.” That legislation includes expanded offshore drilling, conservation initiatives, the improvement of battery technology, and language to curb speculation in the oil futures market.

Energy legislation also has been stalled in the House. A bipartisan “energy working group” of 28 lawmakers hopes to break the impasse this week by proposing a compromise that couples new offshore drilling with conservation and renewable energy programs.

Yet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, says she won’t allow a vote on a bill that includes new offshore oil drilling.

It is exactly this coupling that I think will get both sides to an agreement. Pelosi runs the risk here of losing all negotiating power if she blocks this sort of compromise. Pressure to drill will continue to increase, and right now the Democrats could still demand pretty generous concessions. I predict that unless supplies can grow (and I don’t expect them to grow much) and stay ahead of demand, then the pressure to drill will only increase over the next few years – and the Democrats will be in a weaker negotiating position. On the other hand, I think we are going to end up with a Democrat for president, and he will have something to say on the matter as well.