The Gas Menagerie: McCain and Graham Join The Drill Team

Both John McCain and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham have long supported the moratorium on expanding Big Oil's offshore leases beyond the millions and millions of acres they've already secured for exploration, drilling and production. There had to be some protected coastline, for Pete's sake. We Americans love our beaches, our seafood--and we don't want either one blackened. Unless we're talking New Orleans style, iron skillet-seared fish and shrimp.

Any notion of lifting the ban that kept South Carolina's coastline pristine worried Graham. He said, "I feel terrible about that. The worst thing we can do as a nation is take the easy way out...If you start opening up offshore drilling, then you are buying time and you are not addressing the fundamental problem with fossil fuels...All of our coastal communities I've talked with believe offshore drilling would be a detriment to our economy along the coast. I tend to agree with that."

You go, Lindsey! South Carolina has poverty problems, but we've also been blessed with a coastline to die for. Or fight for, as the case might be. Our beaches are the base for what is, arguably, this state's largest industry: Tourism. On the national list of America's top ten beaches, our Myrtle Beach ranks second. Over 30 million people travel to Palmetto State beaches every year, pumping $16.7 billion into our economy. According to S.C. Congressman James Clyburn, we expect that figure to grow to $25.5 billion by 2010.

In 2000, 201,100 South Carolinians were employed by the tourism industry. It is projected that, by 2010, an additional 52,500 travel and tourism related jobs will be pumping money into the state's economy. In a state with a population of just over 4 million, a quarter of a million folks working in travel and tourism jobs is a mighty big chunk of the workforce. We need the jobs. And we can't afford to risk the beaches that provide those jobs.

John McCain has flipped on honoring the moratorium on expanded offshore drilling. On the June 22 edition of Meet the Press, Lindsey Graham officially joined him. When McCain flips, Graham flops. Brian Williams challenged Lindsey to explain the dramatic turnaround.

"Four dollars a gallon!" Lindsey exclaimed. He and John McCain are feeling our pain at the pump and, dadgum it, they're coming to the rescue. South Carolina, Graham lamented, is full of poor folks who drive gas-guzzling cars and can't afford four dollars a gallon.

He's absolutely right. They're driving big, energy inefficient vehicles--lots of very old second-, third- and fourth-hand cars and trucks they cannot afford to replace with newer, higher-gas-mileage models. Four dollars a gallon is rough on any middle- or working-class American. For the working poor, struggling at or below the poverty line, the cost of gas is devastating. South Carolina has more than its share of the working poor. They're vulnerable to expedient campaign rhetoric.

Promise them--promise the burgeoning struggling class anywhere in America--some relief at the pump and you've struck oil at the polls come November. They're scared to death. Terrorism in America is thriving at every gas station from Myrtle Beach to Marina Del Ray. How can we afford the spiraling costs of food, medical care, insurance and the like if the cost of a gallon of gasoline means we can't afford to get to the workplace?

The GOP has mastered the fine art of scaring us into voting their way. The McCain/Graham cure for the common man (and woman) is selling the public GOP gas relief. Lift the moratorium, they tell us, open up more OCS acreage for Big Oil, and the four dollars a gallon terrorist will be defeated. We'll all be safe. It's mighty comforting to hear that. We'll turn the corner. Mission Accomplished (just like total victory in Iraq).

Except that it's not true.

Joe Biden challenged Lindsey on Meet the Press: "This [lifting the moratorium] is a gift to the oil companies by John McCain! They [already] have 41 million...acres of offshore leases. They're only pumping in 10.2 million of those acres. 79% of the offshore oil available...lies within those acres that they now have. Why are they not pumping?"

Graham had no answer for that.

Neither he nor John McCain have a ready answer for this, either:

The Minerals Management Service, a bureau in the U.S. Department of the Interior which manages the nation's natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf, reports that access to these new Pacific, Atlantic and eastern Gulf regions "...would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030."

Leasing would not even begin before 2012 and production would not be expected to start before 2017. Further, at America's current consumption rate (20.8 million barrels per day), the oil reserves made available from lifting the moratorium would last this country less than 2 ½ years.

So. We allow Big Oil to lay claim to more of our precious coastline before they've drilled 75% of the offshore acreage they already have available. Then we wait 22 years for "significant impact" on the price-per-gallon we're paying. And we trust that, if all goes well, after 22 years we'll enjoy the benefits of this new source of our very own domestic oil for a couple of years? Hello?

John McCain, caught in this truth- and time-warp of actual facts, now tells us that lifting the moratorium would have a "psychological" impact on us. He says that's "beneficial." Handing Big Oil ready access to more offshore acreage is a good thing. It'll make us feel better.

Lindsay Graham? He warns us about Barack Obama, a flip-flopping candidate who will say anything to win the election. Anything. Ya just can't trust that guy.

The McCain/Graham drill team? They're giving us the same old hand-up-your-skirt political pandering and the same old oily, empty promise: "Just give me a little bit, honey...Trust me, trust me...I'll still respect you in the morning."

Mm-mmm. Every four years there's some guy trying to get at us in the steamy back seat of his gas-guzzling muscle car. I say we keep our skirts down. You know the drill: Just say no.