Image One definition of insanity is an ability to hold two opposing views at the same time. On that basis, the Congress of the United States - at least part of it - appears certifiable. A prime example is the response of liberal senators and representatives to high gasoline prices.

Whenever gas hits $3.00 a gallon or more - because of world market forces or inadequate domestic refining capacity - certain congressmen hold press conferences to denounce Big Oil for "unconscionable profiteering" while the common man is suffering. Calls for taxes on excess profits and investigations of oil companies for collusion and price-fixing are so predictable you could almost set your watch by them. (Can't these people get some new material?) Not one investigation has ever produced evidence to support such charges.

All this is cool, if you're really a populist looking out for the little guy - however misguided your impulses might be. But that's not really true for most liberals, who tend also to be "green" - meaning that they support the environmentalist agenda calling for diminished use of fossil fuels. In the past, the villain was "dirty" coal, which produced smoke full of sulfur oxides, poisonous heavy metals, and soot. Coal was cheap, but environmental lobbies harassed energy companies so much about it that many converted their plants to burn natural gas.

This wholesale national conversion transformed the natural gas market, of course. Once a plenteous, inexpensive fuel, gas is now costly as big power companies and homeowners compete for it. An uninterrupted supply is becoming questionable. Meanwhile, modern combustion technologies have scrubbed coal, but power companies and central heating plants won't touch it. We have 2,000 years' supply of a fuel we're afraid to use.

Ditto for nuclear power. Environmentalists have so thoroughly spooked politicians, regulatory commissions, and the public about nuclear power's "risks" that few new reactors have come on-line in the United States in thirty years. From 1992 to 2005, 270,000 MW of gas-fired plants were built, but only 14,000 MW of nuclear and coal-fired plants. Nuclear power produces zero carbon-emissions. Yet its expanded use in the USA is dead for the foreseeable future - until we regain our sanity about it. Political and regulatory red tape and activist lawsuits have also blocked any new refinery in the United States for the last twenty-five years. Citizens say they favor building reactors or refineries, but usually "not in my back yard" (NIMBY).

Nevertheless, shouldn't we all be happy because natural gas is such a clean fuel? Well... not exactly. That was OK in the 1970s and ‘80s, but 21st-century greens want a smaller "carbon footprint". They now demand reduced use of all carbon-fuels because of global warming, which they say is driven by carbon dioxide. (Of all modern fuels, only hydrogen is not a hydrocarbon.)

Lower carbon usage requires higher prices. That means $3.00 gasoline is good (and $4.00 gasoline would be better) - right? Well, ah, no, actually. Consumers don't think so. Nor do populist (or faux-populist) politicians who are denouncing big oil, Mr. Bush, and Republicans, and demanding lower prices. Many price-bashers are the same green liberals whose policies actually increased prices. (Do even they realize the contradiction?)

Part of Congress's energy-schizophrenia involves liberals' opposition to developing the oil and gas resources we already have. Congress continues to fence off vast, proven reserves in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) from developers. (Geologists estimate the ANWR field at 10 billion barrels, with a potential production rate of 1.4 million barrels/day.) Congress has blocked all attempts to tap this oil - even as prices have spiked repeatedly in recent years.

Huge reserves also lie beneath the continental shelf of our east, west and gulf coasts. Figures from the National Petroleum Council (conservatively) estimate 16.4 billion barrels of oil (bbo) and 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (tcfng). In addition, an area touching the western states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas contains probable reserves of 2.7 bbo and 137 tcfng. Canada has also found 10 bbo and 50 tcfng off the coast of its maritime provinces.

Extraction of US continental shelf oil and gas has been blocked since 1998 by a Bill Clinton executive order. A presidential order from Mr. Bush could thus undo that restriction. What is he waiting for? The latest word is that China will help Cuba drill in international waters off Florida. Thus, not only will greens' blockage of continental shelf drilling be undone, but other nations will get the oil. (Your government at work.)

Congress's determination to booze up our gas tanks also deserves honorable mention in the contest for the Bonehead Trophy (awarded annually for the dumbest energy "solution"). Ethanol is costlier than gasoline, delivers reduced vehicular mileage, and produces only about 20% more energy than it takes to produce it. Hard-pressed consumers paying $50 to fill their tanks have been snookered into believing ethanol is helping them. Instead, they are paying more for a fuel less efficient than pure gasoline. Ethanol enriches only farmers. Some deal.

To add insult to injury, politicians want to increase our vehicular use of ethanol, although we don't (and won't) have the production capacity to meet proposed targets. The ethanol craze has increased food-prices in Mexico where corn is a staple. (More "help" for poor Mexicans.)

Was it Will Rogers who said the first hundred people listed in the telephone book would do just fine as the United States Senate? Well, whoever said it was right. Whatever is going on in Congress, it isn't brainpower and it isn't wisdom - far from it. It's not even common sense.

Remember, this is the gang trying to convince you that granting amnesty to 15 million illegal immigrants will guarantee that no more illegals will try to sneak into the country. You don't know whether to laugh or cry.