Holding the Key to Gas Prices

WASHINGTON -- Rising in the Senate on May 13, Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat, explained: "I rise to discuss rising energy prices." The president was heading to Saudi Arabia to seek an increase in its oil production, and Schumer's gorge was rising.

Saudi Arabia, he said, "holds the key to reducing gasoline prices at home in the short term." Therefore arms sales to that kingdom should be blocked unless it "increases its oil production by one million barrels per day," which would cause the price of gasoline to fall "50 cents a gallon almost immediately."

Can a senator, with so many things on his mind, know so precisely how the price of gasoline would respond to that increase in the oil supply? Schumer does know that if you increase the supply of something, the price of it probably will fall. That is why he and 96 other senators recently voted to increase the supply of oil on the market by stopping the flow of oil into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which protects against major physical interruptions. Seventy-one of the 97 senators who voted to stop filling the SPR also oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

One million barrels is what might today be flowing from ANWR if in 1995 President Clinton had not vetoed legislation to permit drilling there. One million barrels produce 27 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel. Seventy-two of today's senators -- including Schumer, of course, and 38 other Democrats, including Barack Obama, and 33 Republicans, including John McCain -- have voted to keep ANWR's estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil off the market.

So Schumer, according to Schumer, is complicit in taking $10 away from every American who buys 20 gallons of gasoline. "Democracy," said H.L. Mencken, "is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard." The common people of New York want Schumer to be their senator, so they should pipe down about gasoline prices, which are a predictable consequence of their political choice.

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One million barrels is what might today be flowing from ANWR if in 1995 President Clinton had not vetoed legislation to permit drilling there. One million barrels produce 27 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel.