‘Drill’ Meets ‘Don’t Drill’ on Capitol Hill
August 7, 2008 - 5:51 AMDueling protesters -- those who favor expanded domestic oil drilling and those who do not -- clashed in front of the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.
“Drill right, here right now,” demonstrators chanted as members of the liberal advocacy groups MoveOn.org and Oil Change International tried to make a statement to a handful of reporters who were there to cover the protest.
“Drilling is a gimmick and political ploy,” Ilyse Hogue, the campaign director for MoveOn.org, shouted over a megaphone. “It will not lower gas prices for 10 years according to the Department of Energy’s own standards.”
But demonstrators carrying signs reading, “Drill! Drill! Drill!” interjected. They insist that most Americans support expanded domestic drilling.
“Forty percent of Americans want more energy!” one counter-demonstrator shouted.
At one point, a pro-drilling protester emerged from the fray with a torn sign, shouting that MoveOn.org had restricted his free speech.
“We are here to counter the false message that MoveOn has,” Nan Swift, the campaign coordinator at the conservative organization Freedom Works told CNSNews.com. “We think increased supply will bring down gas prices. It’s simple supply and demand.”
But MoveOn.org’s Hogue told CNSNews.com that her group wants voters to understand that expanded domestic oil drilling is not a realistic solution to high energy prices.
“We want voters to see through the Republican’s gimmick,” said Hogue.
“We know drilling won’t affect the market for at least ten years. The bottom line is that the Democratic Party stands for the energy of the future. Not pie in the sky proposals like drilling that will only benefit Big Oil and show no discernable effect in the market for years.”
MoveOn.org is organizing another “emergency action” on Thursday as part of its effort to highlight Republicans’ “extensive ties to Big Oil.” The group also plans to deliver a petition to members of Congress, urging them to vote for “a switch to clean energy.”
“Republicans are working hard to make it seem like they're fighting for cash-strapped commuters—and not the oil companies that want to drill the most,” MoveOn.org said in a message urging supporters to gather outside the Annandale, Va., office of Republican Rep. Tom Davis on Thursday.
“We've invited the media, and having a good crowd is critical to show them that voters don't want oil industry gimmicks, they want real solutions like alternative energy to solve our energy crisis.”
The liberal group admits that Republicans have been “dominating” the energy debate for weeks, but they say Republicans are pushing for oil drilling “only because their donors in the oil industry want it.”
According to MoveOn.org, the U.S. has only 1.6 percent of the world’s oil. The “don’t drill” contingent says it would take a decade or more to produce any oil -- and even then, they say, it won’t lower gasoline prices by any significant amount.
Republicans, including President Bush, disagree. They say that simply announcing the U.S. intention to drill for more oil on American soil would have the psychological effect of bringing prices down right away.
In mid-July, President Bush said it’s important to “change the psychology” that demand will always outstrip supply. It will take a while to get the offshore oil flowing he admitted. “But it won’t take a while to send a signal to the world that we’re willing to use new technologies to find oil reserves here at home.”
In its message to supporters on Wednesday, MoveOn.org noted that 76 percent of Americans “overwhelmingly” believe that policymakers should focus on investing in new energy technologies, including renewable fuels and more efficient vehicles rather than expanding exploration and drilling for more oil.
House Republicans ask, why not do all of it? They are pushing what they call an “all-of-the-above” energy plan -- legislation that would encourage greater use of alternative sources of energy as well as promote conservation and expand nuclear power and domestic oil drilling.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t allow a vote on their plan -- because she’s afraid it would pass, House Republican leaders say.
House Republicans are now waging a gas price protest on the floor of the House of Representatives. They’re furious that Speaker Pelosi sent lawmakers home on a five-week recess without first voting on energy legislation.
“We are proposing that we come back into session and have an up or down vote on an energy package that includes everything including drilling for additional oil and gas. This is not just about oil and gas, it’s about a comprehensive package,” said House Republican Conference Secretary John Carter (R-Texas).
“We have got to get the price of energy down to an affordable level again, and we only do that by a comprehensive that covers all of the energy.”