(CNN)–It’s impossible these days to put the nozzle of a gas pump into your car without wondering just how deeply into our wallets the attached hose goes. With each increasingly precious drop of fuel, it seems, we are sucking the life out of the engine of the American economy. How serious might it get? Listen to the words of Congressman John Peterson (R-Pennsylvania), who says the crisis over oil prices “is more important and threatening to America’s future than terrorism.”
I asked the Congressman about that on today’s American Morning program. He contends that high oil prices are destroying the middle class and that there is no urgency in Washington to do anything about it. In much the same way that the early warning signs about Al-Qaeda were ignored while terrorists infiltrated American society, Peterson believes elected officials are standing by as the insidious effects of rising oil prices are eroding the very foundation of our prosperity. And in the same way that America launched a global war on terror, Peterson believes a similar mobilization effort must be taken to drastically reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
Many people have talked about the need for the energy equivalent of a “moon-shot,” or Manhattan Project-style effort to render the fossil fuel-based economy obsolete. While nothing of the sort has so far happened, Peterson is hoping to build a bi-partisan coalition in the House to at least take some kind of action. This morning, he talked to me about tax breaks to help Americans become more energy efficient (to get rid of old cars and old furnaces), increased funding for renewable fuels and a new push to tap vast reserves of shale oil in the west.
And – somewhat surprising for a Republican – he doesn’t want to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He feels it’s politically radioactive, so why bother wasting time fighting that battle?
A softer target for Peterson is the expansion of offshore drilling – and on this point, he has a preacher’s zeal for proselytization. He has been pushing offshore exploration for 10 years, and feels – with pressure mounting on members of Congress to do something about oil prices – the time is ripe to act. He brushes aside Barack Obama’s arguments that it will be seven years – at least – before a drop of offshore oil drives anyone to work. “If we say close to where there’s current production,” he says, “we can have energy in a couple of years.”
His prime place to start? Next to the 27 “grandfathered” platforms off the coast of California. How well would that go over in the Golden State? Remember that scene from Total Recall where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s head is about to explode in the thin Martian atmosphere?
Peterson insists we “need a war on energy” and that he is close to forging a bi-partisan consensus on a number of issues to help secure America’s energy independence. But with an expansion of offshore drilling as the centerpiece of any proposal, Peterson’s Global War On Oil Prices may never make it through the vicious fight in Congress.