I’m hearing disconcerting rumors that McCain is planning to endorse the so-called Gang of
10 16 20 energy legislation. That would be a huge mistake. In terms of its effect on the conservative base, supporting the Gang of 20′s energy bill would be like McCain pouring a big bucket of cold water on the fire he started with the Palin pick.
Here’s what the editors had to say about the gang last week:
The bill would open up a tiny little smidgen of space on the Outer Continental Shelf for oil and gas exploration — just enough that Democrats who vote for it can claim to be pro-drilling, neutralizing one of the Republicans’ most energizing issues going into the November elections. But the benefits of the bill’s meager drilling provisions would be negated (and then some) by $30 billion in tax hikes on U.S. oil companies, placing our own domestic producers at an additional disadvantage compared to their overseas competitors. In exchange for very little new supply, these companies would pay higher taxes related to the crucial activities of exploration and refinery-capacity expansion. To nobody’s great surprise, the industry is not eager to accept this trade.
The money raised by taxing U.S. oil companies would go to pay for $84 billion in new spending on dodgy renewable energy projects — mostly tax credits for hybrid cars and research grants for biofuel production. If you want to know how much of an impact this multi-billion-dollar giveaway for special interests is likely to have on gasoline prices, consider this: Since 2005, Congress has passed two energy bills chock full of subsidies for renewable energy, and gas prices have increased nearly $1.50 per gallon.
The gang’s proposal would actually leave most offshore areas off-limits in exchange for allowing four states — Georgia, Virginia, and the Carolinas — the option of approving new oil leases 50 miles off their shores. The bill would open a little new acreage in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida, but Florida’s eastern shores would remain off-limits, as would the oil-rich Pacific.
Republicans in the gang appear to have seriously underestimated their party’s strength on this issue. Two-thirds of the public supports opening the Outer Continental Shelf to new drilling. The gang is undermining Republicans in a fight they are winning politically and policy-wise. The congressional ban on offshore drilling expires October 1. President Bush has made it clear that he will not sign any bill that renews the ban. All Republicans have to do is stand with the president and let the ban expire. No new taxes. No new spending. Just a new supply of domestically produced energy.
McCain opposes wasteful spending and supports offshore drilling. The Gang of 20′s bill contains a lot of the former and very little of the latter, and it raises taxes on domestic energy production. Americans for Tax Reform has announced that a vote for the gang’s bill would constitute a violation of its taxpayer protection pledge, which McCain has signed.
Obama will probably end up supporting the gang’s bill. Why wouldn’t he? Its drilling provisions are a sham, but it lets him claim he supports drilling. McCain needs to strongly oppose this bill. By doing so, he would be holding out for a better policy (the expiration of the drilling ban) and denying Obama valuable political cover.