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Oil Shale Out The Doggy Door

As we've been following here, the Democratic Congress has fully capitulated on the issue of offshore drilling, thereby giving the "drill here, drill now" crowd its catnip. I don't think this kind of compromise is the end of the world--though, as I've argued, the optics would have been better had it been Barack Obama riding to the floor of Congress and leading that growing gang of senators ready to hash out an energy deal before returning home to tough elections. But the drilling offshore is set to be adopted or refused on a state-by-state basis, and I am not confident that coastal states with the most oil, like California and Florida, or even states like Utah, with ruby red voters but a disincentive toward passage (such states currently would suffer any environmental fallout without collecting royalties from the government), will go for it.

But who knows anymore? Just as soon as Congress had fashioned some political shelter, they were forced back onto the precipice by the current financial meltdown. And the intricacies of this deal appear to be derailing more than the Obama-McCain debate (still) scheduled for tomorrow. Of the chaos, one substantial silver lining: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's has moved to restore (PDF) the production ban on oil shale in the United States. The late amendment might scrap future development of a fuel that, while estimated to be abundantly available in the mountain west, has a far more toxic emissions profile than regular domestic sources of energy. 

South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, whose legislative priorities have been less than earth friendly, is angry about the extension--which Reid has reportedly put into an economic stimulus bill ("or we should say an anti-stimulus," DeMint's blog snarks) that will soon be brought to the floor. We'll see where the negotiations over the bill go (see Brad's rundown for more), but bully for Reid! His is a spineful stand that, frankly, exploits the penny-ante gamesmanship of this political climate. At the worst, the Congress will re-litigate the merits of the fuel, but it would be fine to see Democrats pick off the most egregious problem within an otherwise decent plan for energy investments.

--Dayo Olopade