Squawk rights on fuel prices must be earned

July 10, 2006
In a free society, speech rights are a given. Squawk rights, by contrast, must be earned.

by Bob Tippee, Editor

In a free society, speech rights are a given. Squawk rights, by contrast, must be earned.

Except to the extent they manifest freedom of speech, squawk rights don’t exist in law. But they’re fundamental to human behavior.

They represent a license to complain without looking hypocritical.

For example, somebody who won’t get up off the sofa to adjust the thermostat shouldn’t gripe when the room gets cold. The sluggard hasn’t earned squawk rights.

But who won’t nod sympathetically when the mother of 2-year-old triplets wishes out loud for a moment’s rest? She has definitely earned squawk rights.

The concept is simple. Except in the US Congress.

With no small measure of difficulty, the US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would carefully-some might say timidly-lift federal moratoriums on oil and gas leasing and drilling of the Outer Continental Shelf (OGJ Online, June 30, 2006).

The bill boosts revenue-sharing, which appeals to coastal states but represents a fiscal-policy bull’s eye for opponents. It creates a 100-mile buffer. It employs gas-only leases.

Still, some leasing beats no leasing, especially in an energy market craving new supply.

Opponents of offshore drilling and production are squawking, of course. Some politicians don’t want oil and gas activity of any kind to happen anywhere, any time, for any reason.

Their obstructionism is a background irritation of energy politics. It’s as effective in policy-making as it is constant. It’s an inexplicable part of life that simply must be dealt with, like fire ants and tax laws.

It goes beyond irritation, however, when it co-opts popular frustration about fuel prices. An objection voiced about the House leasing initiative was that it didn’t accompany action on a measure to make oil-price manipulation a federal crime.

In the real world, prices aren’t high because of manipulation. They’re high because supply is deficient relative to demand. Confusion about these relationships seems all too common in Congress. Or could it be hypocrisy?

Whatever the case, politicians who won’t do anything for oil and gas supply shouldn’t complain about high fuel prices. They haven’t earned squawk rights.

(Online June 30, 2006; author’s e-mail: [email protected])