Congress Needs To Think “Out of the Box”

February 8, 2005

by Thomas D. Segel

The self-serving elitists we have placed in the chambers of Congress have done more to stifle American liberty than all foreign tyrants combined. Those who think this an outlandish statement should just consider for one moment the thousands upon thousands of laws, regulations, directives, restrictions and other pronouncements, which limit individual freedom.

At the same time our elected officials are erecting barriers that impact everyone’s lives, they seem incapable of thinking “outside the box” when it comes to funding anything without either borrowing (spell that more national debt), on increasing individual taxes.

Now this relatively unknown scribe, penning commentary from a small Texas town, is admittedly not one of the great “thinkers” of our age. But, even I can come up with an idea to fund a few projects.

Take, for example, the Washington dilemma of finding a way to “pay” for Social Security reform. Well, here in Texas we pay for most state expenditures out of general revenue. Texas has no state income tax. With the exception of property taxes, assorted use taxes, fees for services, and the state lottery, there are very few other income sources…except for gas and oil revenues.

From this vantage point it seems any debt related to Social Security could be

covered by the federal government taking a share of all revenue gained from any newly produced oil and natural gas supplies.

In the past, our government has “sold” drilling rights to oil and gas companies. However, there is nothing to prohibit a change in this practice. A percentage of the take has always been a rule rather than the exception in business.

There is strong logic behind this idea. We already know there are reserves of gas and oil just waiting to be brought to the surface.

The potential of Alaska has been addressed ad nauseam. There are also vast deposits of natural gas. The Destin Dome natural gas field off Florida’s coast is just one example of a major untapped revenue source. There is even greater public bounty scattered across the face of the United States. It has been denied to the citizenry because of restrictive laws, regulations and edicts.

According to the University of Chicago Argonne National Laboratory there are trillions upon trillions of cubic feet of natural gas still untapped. Federal officials who have bowed to special interest groups or created legislation that was overly restrictive have denied this revenue and energy source to the American people.
Our government had sold the Destin Dome field drilling rights for 20 million dollars. When Florida prohibited the actual drilling using some vague language in the Coastal Zone Management Act, the government bought back those same rights for 115 million dollars. The gas is still there and the taxpayers are out 95 million dollars.

Clinton’s “roadless rule”, limiting passage though federal lands and wilderness sites was by executive order and actually bypassed Congress. It is estimated that more than 23 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could be brought forth from those protected acres.

Another 16.3 million acres of federal land holding an estimated 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas has been given the congressional “wilderness” designation.

While the nation staggers forward without an energy plan and while serious legislation such as Social Security reform goes without funding, the answer to so many problems lies just under the surface of our land. But, environmentalist lobbying, The Endangered Species Act, The Coastal Zone Management Act, plus countless Forest Service and Federal Land Management Bureau regulations have effectively blocked a potential major energy supply and revenue source.

The Alaskan Pipe Line has already proven the environment can thrive while men utilize the resources from beneath the earth’s surface. Today, along the pipeline route, vegetation blooms and animals graze in abundance.

So, back to the original thought of this commentary. Isn’t it about time those pampered officials in Washington stopped thinking about their next election, those who butter their coffers with cash, and their "squeaky wheel" political base? Isn’t it about time they started to do some serious “out of the box” thinking and come up with creative ways to solve the nation’s problems? Having the government take a fair percentage of new oil and gas revenues and dedicating that money to specific needs might be a possible answer.

Thomas D. Segel