October 27, 2008

Reid's Deadly Land Grab

Washington DC Examiner

One reason Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is talking about calling the Senate back to the nation’s capital after the election is to seek passage of his Omnibus Land Management Act of 2008. Enactment of this 1,000+ page monstrosity of a bill will be disastrous for American energy independence, as well as for hundreds of millions of poor people living on the edge of starvation around the globe. If that connection seems strained, consider the following:

Reid’s bill is actually a combination of more than 100 separate bills, each of which adds to the lands owned by the federal government in the American West. It’s not enough that the federal government already controls more than 650 million acres of Western land. Reid and company want to put millions more acres under the dead hand of the federal bureaucracy, and thereby prevent development of rich new energy resources that could help free America from dependence upon foreign oil. Experts agree there are billions of barrels of recoverable oil in oil shale areas of these lands, as well as massive stores of natural gas and coal. As Americans for Tax Reform notes in a recent letter to the Senate, “by restricting access to land for energy exploration, this legislation is limiting the potential of the economy and directly interfering with America’s entrepreneurial drive. By creating unnecessary new ‘conservation’ programs, million of additional acres of land will be managed by a vast government bureaucracy.”

By locking up these lands from energy exploration and development, Reid’s bill would inevitably result in gas again costing $4 per gallon and even more. Food prices will resume their upward climb, along with the costs of everything else that requires energy to be produced and marketed. Such cost spirals won’t be limited to America because OPEC’s monopoly would be strengthened globally, meaning upward pressure on prices everywhere. As disturbing as that prospect is for Americans, the effects of Reid’s bill will be catastrophic for millions of poor people in the Third World. Dr. Calvin Meisner reminds us elsewhere on these pages that when energy prices rise, so does the cost of food and that means death for the most economically vulnerable people in Africa and Asia. Historian Paul Johnson estimates that tens of millions of poor people in those regions died following OPEC’s 1973 oil price shock. Their deaths resulted from malnutrition, disease and related afflictions when their subsistence incomes were forced even lower by OPEC greed. Millions more will be similarly doomed today by the hunger holocaust that will surely follow if Reid’s bill becomes law.