Jim Matheson, still afraid to lead.
WASHINGTON - Utah and other Western states could open up vast fields of oil shale for development under a measure put forward by Rep. Jim Matheson and passed Tuesday by the House.Many will again argue that this is just politically smart for Matheson, and they may have a point. But at some point in time, Matheson is going to have to test the waters act like a real Democrat. Kids in school or not. While acknowledging his role as the solitary Democrat in Utah's federal delegation, Matheson consistently passes up opportunities to lead the direction of the debate, choosing instead to roll over for the Republicans with lightning quick ease. Common sense too often takes a second seat to maintaining a conservative image. And there is no common sense in Oil Shale or Offshore Drilling as a solution to our energy crisis.
Matheson's provision permits Utah, Colorado and Wyoming to choose whether to allow companies to extract what supporters insist is a large source of energy locked in rock deposits in the region. Opponents argue harvesting that energy would be environmentally damaging and isn't commercially viable.
The Utah Democrat's insert - tucked inside an energy bill that passed Tuesday night 236-189 - would bypass a ban on finalizing the rules on how oil-shale leases on federal lands are doled out. The current ban expires Oct. 1 but is likely to be renewed.
"I don't want to oversell that production is ready - that you're going to see production tomorrow," Matheson said Tuesday. "I understand there are technological advances that are going to have to happen. But I thought it was important for the state and industry to have the opportunity to pursue those resources."
Matheson voted for the overall bill, which includes opening up some off-shore drilling at a coastal state's discretion, while Utah's GOP representatives, Rob Bishop and Chris Cannon, voted against it. Republicans maintain the energy measure doesn't go far enough to unshackle domestic energy production.
Matheson and the Blue Dog Caucus has been a gigantic failure when it comes to leadership, getting more Democrats elected, and respectable legislation.