Oil and gas provisions yes … Hooters no

Ned Cantwell

New Mexico writers come to realize they don’t want to mess with Pete Domenici. The Republican Senator of three decades is revered by folks all across I-40, up and down I-25, along the byways of 285.
Some years back I wrote some funny stuff about how Pete’s campaign ads showing him reading to third graders were ludicrous. Except the stuff wasn’t all that funny. I realized it was not all that funny when people began crossing the street when they saw me approach.
“I was just KIDDING!” I would yell after them.
Pete, himself, spending the day hunting with his buddies in southeastern New Mexico, called me. It was the part of the evening when the fellows, after a long hunt, were, you know, reviewing the day’s activities.
“I always thought you were one of the good guys,” Domenici said when he heard my voice. “I was just KIDDING!” I told him.
For the record, I think Pete is one of the good guys. Having established that love connection, it must be said that his controversial energy bill was an apparent stinker, an unfortunate toe stub late in so distinguished a career.
To the credit of the bill’s scholarly drafters, it did not require government agents to dress in Santa suits when they delivered millions of goodies to Midwestern farmers.
A Wall Street Journal editorial nailed it: “The GOP leadership has greased more wheels than a NASCAR pit crew.”
The newspapers and airwaves were full of outraged debate on the energy issue. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who likes to wax pompous in a most virtuous manner, managed to lobby into the legislation big, big bucks to build an indoor rainforest and a million-gallon aquarium. Way to go, Chuckie.
Among those adamantly opposed to the bill was the other New Mexico Senator, Democrat Jeff Bingaman. “The bill has a lot of defects,” Bingaman said. For Jeff, that’s like, well, shouting. Jeff is a distinguished guy with a big time intellect and a quiet demeanor.
Bingaman and others argued the energy bill was a financial extravaganza of vote buying. Included were $24 billion — that’s billion — of tax breaks for energy industries already getting plump on profits.
As a New Mexican, I will leave it to the good senators, Bingaman and Domenici, to figure out such weighty matters. In the meantime, though, I have to say New Mexico got the short end of the stick on this one.
Oh, there were plums for the Land of Enchantment, provisions having to do with oil and gas drilling on federal land holdings. That’s all well and good, but we did not get a Hooters. That’s right, Hooters.
The bill gave incentives for building an energy-rich Hooters in Bossier City, La. It’s just not fair.
Say what you want, opening up a Hooters should be a part of any comprehensive energy bill. When an old guy walks into a Hooters, there is a certain amount of energy stimulation, although most of us couldn’t warm up a toaster.

Ned Cantwell is a retired newspaperman living in Ruidoso. He likes Hooters, but only for the food.