On the same day the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors are considering sending a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger requesting that state policy be changed to allow for oil exploration and drilling in the county, Rep. Lois Capps joined Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and fellow Democratic members of Congress outside the Denver Union Station to explain their commitment to solving the country’s energy crisis.
Capps herself didn’t speak, but had to leave midway through the press conference to practice her speech, scheduled for tomorrow night at the Pepsi Center. She was part of the large Congressional contingent, which took the free 16th Street Mall shuttle to Union Station.
But Pelosi did speak, and explained that the Democrats are proposing a comprehensive approach and, she said, “putting everything on the table.” She expected that in the coming weeks, Congress would take a vote on the issue. After the House took a scheduled break earlier this month, a group of Republican members of Congress refused to leave the house floor, instead protesting Pelosi’s refusal to put energy on the table for discussion. Pelosi and Democratic nominee-to-be Sen. Barack Obama both have indicated all options, including drilling, should be on the table for discussion.
A group of protestors made their presence at the press conference known, holding signs in support of John McCain and chanting “Drill here, drill now!” Pelosi interrupted her speech to address the crowd: “Drill here?” she asked. “Can we drill your brain?” Majority leader and Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer also had some words for the crew, saying, “Sophomoric chanting will not make us energy independent.”
Over the last eight years, Pelosi said, the White House has “reflected the demands of ‘Big Oil,'” and President Bush’s current plan would only lead to a reduction of two cents in the price of oil over the next 10 years. Instead, Democrats are calling for a comprehensive energy plan, including tax credits for groups using and manufacturing for clean energy, Hoyer said. And no rebates or cuts would be coming to the oil companies who are drilling. “We need to make sure the American people are compensated for the dispensation of their resources,” said West Virginia Rep. Nick Rahall.
While that is happening and while Congress works on a comprehensive renewable energy policy using wind and solar technologies, the Democrats say oil companies should drill in the 68 million acres of federal land and water already leased to them.
In Santa Barbara, the county Board of Supervisors has no power to approve new drilling itself, and a letter would be more of a symbolic gesture. Schwarzenegger has fought against federal offshore oil moves in the past, so it’s unclear what he would do with such a letter. And while the governor will be part of next week’s Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, his wife Maria Shriver was shown prominently here in Denver at the DNC last night, where she supported her uncle, Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer but managed to give a rousing speech to the convention.