From the Hill

By John J. Duncan Jr.
U.S. representative


There is no good reason why gas and diesel prices should be so high. Yet many environmentalists want prices to go even higher so people will drive less.

Environmental radicals are shutting this nation down economically, and independent truckers have been among the first and hardest hit.

Environmental extremists almost always come from very wealthy or upper income families. Maybe they aren’t hurt by these high fuel prices, but many poor and lower income and working people are. No other country has locked up natural resources anywhere close to the extent we have.

We now have 85 percent, or 611 million acres, of our offshore oil areas off-limits for production.

We prohibit drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, even though proposals call for drilling on only 2,000 or 3,000 acres out of its 19.8 million acres. The refuge is an area more than 35 times the size of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and most of its northern tip where there is oil is frozen tundra without a tree or bush on it.

It is not just conservatives who support increased production. Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson wrote on April 30 that we are “almost powerless” to bring down world oil prices “because we didn’t take sensible actions 10 or 20 years ago.”

He added: “If we persist, we will be even worse off in a decade or two. The first thing to do: Start drilling.”

The entire time I have been in Congress, left-wing environmentalists and their allies have opposed any attempt to increase production, saying it will not help immediately or even in the next few months.

The one time we were able to pass a bill allowing more drilling in ANWR, President Clinton vetoed it. It would have meant a million barrels of oil a day for all those years.

The liberals’ solution: Cry crocodile tears, sympathize, attack the oil companies, say they are for energy independence, but, heaven forbid, don’t allow any increased production. This in spite of the fact that we can greatly increase production in environmentally safe ways.

Some people seem to think oil production is still in the 1920s, and you have to have an oil rig every 25 or 50 yards. Now you can put up one oil well and go down and out several miles, and the footprint above ground is almost negligible.

Another thing is that the Chinese, through an agreement with Cuba, are going to be able to drill for oil off the coast of Florida, while we are prohibiting U.S. companies from doing so.

We do not need to produce all of our oil or even a great percentage more. But if we just produced a little more, OPEC and other oil-producing countries would not keep raising their prices so fast.

If we do not produce more, we will become even more vulnerable to foreign energy producers.

Even worse, because our entire economy is so dependent on trucking, prices for everything will go up at an even faster rate.

Recently, The Washington Times had a front-page picture of a trucker holding a sign out the window saying, “America is going broke because of oil.”

We simply cannot afford to let wealthy environmental elitists drive more small trucking companies out of business and hurt millions of ordinary Americans in the process. LL

Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan, R-TN, is in his 11th term in the U.S. House and currently serves as Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Highways and Transit Subcommittee. He is also a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, which retains jurisdiction over national parks and natural resources, and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of the views or opinions of Land Line Magazine or OOIDA.