Last week the Santa Barbara city council voted 5 – 1 to affirm its opposition to offshore oil drilling. The measure was passed to counter an August 26th Santa Barbara county supervisor’s vote in favor offshore oil drilling. While both votes were completely symbolic, they do point to a clear fault line in the energy debate.
As blue as the entire state of California is, many of its counties, like Santa Barbara, actually reflect the voting patterns of the nation as a whole. The city of Santa Barbara is urban, wealthy, and is represented in Congress by Rep. Louis Capps (D). The inland county of Santa Barbara is rural, hosts many farmers, ranchers, and factories, and is represented by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R). When it comes to issues like energy and the environment the wealthy urbanites just have different priorities than the working class rural voters.
The USA Today reported earlier this year high energy prices are a double-whammy for many rural residents: “They often pay more than people who live in cities and suburbs because of the expense of hauling fuel to their communities, and they must drive greater distances for life’s necessities: work, groceries, medical care and, of course, gas.” More from the USA Today: “A May survey by the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS), a fuel analysis company, and Wright Express, a company that collects data on credit card transactions, found that people in rural areas spend as much as 16.02% of their monthly family income on gas, while people in urban areas of New York and New Jersey spend as little as 2.05%.”
Liberals in Congress increasingly represent the wealthiest voters in the nation. These wealthy voters just have different values and priorities than the average American. Rising energy costs simply do not hurt wealthy urban Americans the way they hurt the rest of the country. As a result, working class Americans are simply more willing to drill in parts of the ocean and Alaska they will never see than wealthy urban Americans are.