Oil production, refining choked by regulations

CNJ Editorial

Environmentalists have been scrambling to spin the spike in gasoline prices as not the fault of their quite successful efforts the past 30 years to slam the brakes on domestic oil production and refining.

Yeah, right.

It’s time to face reality, and the reality is, America’s domestic oil production and refining capacity has been artificially constricted by extreme environmental regulations that are more about crippling an industry than actually cleaning the environment.

Of course, the irony is, the oil industry is as profitable as ever, thank you very much.

However, please don’t blame the oil industry for the recent spike in gasoline prices.

The public has sat back for 30 years and nodded its tacit approval as the extremists have effectively constricted the supply of one of our most vital commodities — fuel.

If you’re surprised and upset that the price of that commodity is going through the roof, you need to take an Economics 101 refresher course.

The answer is to loosen the restrictions enough to allow expansion of energy exploration and production, along with oil refining, without compromising meaningful environmental standards.

That will take some education on the part of the public, which has tended to believe the environmental wackos whenever they scream about industry or politicians wanting to “gut environmental protections.”

The Bush administration has proposed a number of reasonable environmental measures that would return sanity to the regulatory arena, but the Sierra Club and other extreme organizations have adamantly opposed them. This is a recipe for:

1) Continued dependence on foreign sources of energy.

2) Continued constricted domestic supplies of essential fuels.

3) Needless and potentially catastrophic economic vulnerability.

Eventually the United States and the world will move from fossil fuels to other sources of energy. However, it is naive to expect that shift to take place overnight.

For the near term at least, we need more oil and the refined fuels that power our cars, buses, planes, homes and factories.

Legislation has been introduced to expedite the construction of new refineries. That is all well and good, but we take issue with any proposed tax relief for an industry that is rolling in record profits.

Break the regulatory logjam and let private investment handle the rest.