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Drill now, drill here, pay less

Something else to think about next time you're feeding your Ford Mini-brontosaurus $80 worth of regular gasoline:

According to the federal Minerals Management Service, about 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are locked up and untouchable just off our shores.

"Locked up"• By whom• Who could be so stupid• So diabolical• So un-American?

Big Oil• The U.N• Those evil Exxon Republicans who took us to war for oil in Iraq?

Close. It's our cracked-up Congress -- mainly liberal Democrats who are beholden beyond reason to the religious left's most dangerous fundamentalist sect, wacko environmentalism.

For 27 years Democrats and Republicans have used a two-sentence rider in annual Interior Department appropriations bills to outlaw development of the vast oil and gas fields that we know exist within 200 miles of our coasts.

But Rep. John Peterson, a Republican from upstate Pennsylvania whose crusade to fix America's broken energy policy has brought him the interplanetary enmity of environmentalists, has made it his mission to slay that foolish rider.

All Peterson wants to do is get Congress to allow America to do what every other sensible modern country on Earth from Norway to New Zealand has been doing for decades -- open our deep-sea energy reserves to safe, environmentally sensitive development.

Peterson's latest attempt to kill the foolish rider was Wednesday at a subcommittee hearing when he offered an amendment to the Interior Department appropriations bill that would allow oil and gas drilling rigs to operate between 50 and 200 miles offshore -- so that no liberal's tender eyes can ever see them.

Given $140-a-barrel oil, Peterson thought he could win over two Democrats. But the final tally was 9-6 against him on straight party lines, Peterson said after the vote Wednesday from his office in Washington.

Despite his setback, Peterson remains an unabashed cheerleader of the increasingly popular "Drill Now, Drill Here, Pay Less" movement.

Most Democrats cling to shortsighted, economically fallacious arguments against offshore drilling, but Peterson says Canada is solidly on his side.

Canada, which he said thinks we are "crazy for locking up all our good stuff," is mad at us for not tapping our vast natural gas supplies. By not producing enough of our own natural gas, we drive up the North American price.

In fact, he said, for the last eight years the United States has paid the highest price in the world for natural gas -- about $12.50 per million Btu. Canada pays the second-highest price. South America, by the way, pays about $1.50.

Peterson will try again this week to lift the congressional moratorium on offshore drilling when the full 66-member House appropriations committee meets. All he needs is a majority of one -- and since his similar effort last year lost by only eight votes, he has hope.

"Americans are upset. If we can have a public discussion, if the press does its job -- not picking sides, just putting the facts our there -- and if we just have a factual debate, we will produce more energy.

"The American public is approaching 60 percent now in favor of drilling. If they understood this issue, they'd be 80 or 90 percent for drilling."

Only the enviro-radicals would still be opposed, he said. "And they don't want coal and gas. They don't want oil. They don't want nuclear -- and some don't want wind offshore if it's near their home."

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