No drilling, no energy bill?

NO DRILLING, NO ENERGY BILL?…. It’s tempting to think common sense would have a greater influence over the debate on a new energy/climate policy. With the oil spill disaster constantly getting worse, the need for alternative energies growing more obvious, and the public’s appetite for coastal drilling fading fast, the way forward seems pretty clear.

And yet, a few too many policymakers fail to see it that way. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who recently walked away from his own tri-partisan proposal after months of work, argued yesterday that Democratic reluctance to expanded drilling means the legislation will likely die.

“Why would a person who really believes in drilling put a bill on the floor right now to expand drilling and revenue sharing, knowing it can’t get 50 votes?” Graham told The Hill. “The resistance to drilling has hardened on the Democratic side, so we [Republicans have] got more votes to make up.”

In other words, if Democratic skepticism of drilling is intensifying — hardly an unreasonable position, under the circumstances — then Republicans, who still demand more drilling, aren’t willing to cooperate, no matter how dire the need.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who supported the lease sale off his home state’s shores, said he backed Obama’s decision [to freeze exploratory wells]. Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine), a crucial Republican swing vote on the climate bill, said the Gulf accident had created a crisis of confidence in drilling procedures and technology.

Graham believes this has sapped his rationale for convincing fellow Republicans to support the comprehensive energy and climate change legislation.

“If I go back into conference, what would I tell them?” he said.

Well, that one seems pretty easy, actualy. Graham can tell them the energy bill is still absolutely necessary in helping to create a new energy framework. He can point out the fact that the legislation will help create jobs and lower the deficit. He can tell them it improves American competitiveness in the key industry of the 21st century. He can point out the painful reality that under the status quo the GOP seeks to protect, much of our energy policy is built around sending exorbitant sums of money to the Middle East. (He might also mention combatting global warming, but I know his caucus considers it a Marxist plot to be ignored.)

Graham knows this. He must realize that the Republican Party can’t be taken seriously if the entirety of their energy policy is coastal drilling at a time when an oil spill is wreaking havoc on an entire region.

Graham is worried about what he’ll tell the Republican conference if Dems balk at more drilling. He should be worried about what he’ll tell the country if the GOP blocks this much-needed legislation.