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Rob Bishop can't take yes for an answer.

The United States has more operating oil wells now than at any time since 2002. Domestic oil production is up. Imports, and with them our dependence on hostile regimes, are down. More than half of the 38 million acres of federal land that have been leased for oil production have yet to see a drill.

Yet Bishop, Republican congressman from Utah and chair of a subcommittee that oversees the use of federal lands, is flogging a bill that would micromanage Interior Department policies to demand that the government sell more leases, approve more drilling permits and fast-track unproven and highly risky sources such as oil shale — no matter how much damage it does to the nation that surrounds them.

It's not that the Obama administration has been all that activist in seeing to it that more wells get sunk. It is just that the availability of new technologies, along with prices that are high enough to make more real exploration worth the oil companies' while, have pushed up domestic production. And it has done so even after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill resulted in a moratorium of offshore permits and drilling.

As of last year, the U.S. had 526,000 producing oil wells, up from 500,000 in 2007 and only slightly below the recent record of 529,000 wells that were pumping in 2002. Daily production jumped from 4.95 million barrels in 2008 to 5.51 million in 2010.

Is that enough? Not really. Not for a country that guzzles some 18 million barrels of petroleum products every day. But it has been enough to allow oil imports to decline by more than 25 percent since 2005. Enough that our dependence on an unstable and otherwise undesirable nation such as, oh, say, Libya, is down to 25 million barrels a year, which is about 2 percent of what we get from Canada.

President Barack Obama last week announced a plan — well, more of a hope, really — to further reduce our nation's dependence on oil imports. And outside experts say that, with a combination of responsible oil and gas exploration, energy efficiency efforts and alternative-fuel and electric cars, the president's goal of cutting oil imports by a third by 2025 is actually very modest.

The various trends show that if Congress members and consumers set their expectations high enough, we can meet our needs for energy by carefully bending the supply curve up while aggressively dragging the demand curve down.

Instead of drill, baby, drill, it needs to be think, people, think.

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