As thousands of Egyptians continue to take part in a pro-democracy uprising that is threatening to unseat President Hosni Mubarak, many in the international community are wondering about the global ramifications of the protests and a possible new Egyptian government.
In the past few days, a number of high-profile Republican legislators have responded to the protests not by commenting on the need to support the movement, but by exploiting the uprising to shill for more domestic oil drilling here in the United States. These right-wing figures have argued that the demonstrations are likely to lead to a rise in oil prices and/or result in a government that restricts trade in the Suez canal, therefore the United States should expand its domestic oil drilling here at home:
– Sen. David Vitter (R-LA): Vitter told Fox News that, “in light of the developing situation in Egypt,” gas prices will only continue to increase, “whether it’s because of the Suez Canal or just world conditions.” The senator said that Americas “are fed up” of the Obama administration’s failure to use “our domestic energy resources,” referring to domestic oil drilling. [1/30/11]
– House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI): “The tenuous situation in Egypt underscores our vulnerabilities and the need for American-made energy,” Upton told Politico on Sunday. “Now is not the time for policies that lock away our domestic oil and gas resources.” [1/30/11]
– Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA): “I want to see Coastal Louisianans allowed back to work finding and recovering our domestic energy sources,” said Landry, responding to the Egyptian protests. “Allowing production to occur in the Gulf…will help alleviate the economic crisis of a Suez Canal shutdown and prevent Americans from pay[ing] 5 dollars a gallon for gas.” [1/30/11
Yesterday, Landry appeared on Fox & Friends, where he compared the situation in Egypt to the OPEC oil embargo in the 1970s and affirmed to the Fox hosts that we need to "drill now" thanks to unrest in the Middle East. The congressman evoked the threat of the Suez canal being shut down to justify his demands for more drilling:
HOST: How serious is a situation with what we see in Egypt with oil prices, and what are you calling on the President and Congress to do immediately?
LANDRY: I think we're back to where we were in the 1970s. The Department of Energy was tasked, was created, to shield the United States economy from exactly what we're seeing today, unrest in the economy that is going drive the price of energy through the roof. It is the kind of danger that will just take the steam clean out of any recovery we have out of our economy right now.
HOST: Now, you're calling for the president to drill now. And obviously given the April 20 explosion there on the Deepwater Horizon rig, there's all kind of regulations in place for Deepwater drilling, you say this is something they need to start doing today and lift those regulations.
LANDRY: Well, that's correct. If we hope for any economic recovery to take place, we're gonna need affordable energy. The amount of daily production in the Gulf of Mexico surpasses the amount of oil that passes through the Suez canal. If we have a problem in the Middle East, if that canal is shut down, the price of oil and the price of gas, that we pay at the pump for all Americans are gonna pay is gonna go through the roof.
It is remarkable that the aforementioned legislators immediately jump to exploit the uprising in Egypt to push their own dirty energy agendas. A quick review of their congressional websites finds that not one of the three has posted statements in support of democracy in Egypt or called into question U.S. military and economic aid to the authoritarian leadership. It appears that they are much more concerned with politicizing the demonstrations for their own purposes.
To claim that the Suez canal is in danger of being shut down is wildly sensationalist. Although there was major unrest in the oil market on Friday, much of it was cleared up by today. "There's still concern but with the Suez Canal operating as normal...there's a little bit of relief coming to the market," said financial analyst John Brady of MF Global. He noted that Friday's unrest was "driven by a lack of liquidity and the selloff got a little bit exaggerated."
As CAP Senior Fellow Dan Weiss notes, the oil industry’s profits continue to grow as it battles efforts to rein in taxpayer giveaways.