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TUESDAY, AUGUST 1, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Drilling in Gulf waters only partial solution to shortage

The answer to Big Oil may be Big Government as a way to protect the nation from petroleum shortages and higher prices.

Republicans of the old-time religion that private enterprise always does everything better than can government continue to ignore the pink elephant in the room as they go about opening off-shore drilling to Big Oil.

The Senate is poised to adopt a bill that would open Gulf waters to drilling. The House already has approved its version.

The thrust of the debate is how much of the revenue will go to states such as Alabama that claim chunks of the potential oil fields. There's also legitimate concern over potential environmental damage to Gulf Coast beaches.

Nobody in Congress is talking about Big Oil's profits that continue to get bigger. Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell last week posted combined second-quarter profits of almost $18 billion as crude oil hit new highs.

Other oil companies, BP and ConocoPhillips, saw their income take double-digit jumps as high as 65 percent.

Sometimes, Big Oil cites supply and demand as the culprit, and tells Americans that it's the disruption in supplies that causes the awful price increases.

Other times, they say it is refinery capacity at aging facilities that create a bottleneck and jack up prices when heating-oil refining competes with the making of gasoline.

Much of Big Oil is foreign owned which, through merger and acquisitions, stifles competition. As Congress and the Bush administration move toward opening the Gulf waters to drilling, let's ask them to build national refineries to give Big Oil much-needed competition and as a hedge against shortages.

At today's prices, the profits could help pay down the record national debt. But Congress and the president ignore the elephant.


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