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On offshore drilling, voices of reason

Bob Keefe

Posted May 10, 2011

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To hear Republican leaders in the House, there’s only one solution to lower gas prices: Drilling and more drilling.

The House is taking up two more bills that would mandate drilling in the Atlantic from Maine to North Carolina, as well as off the coast of Southern California, in Alaska’s pristine Bristol Bay and into the Arctic Ocean. The legislation also would dramatically weaken the safeguards for offshore drilling, making safety precautions even more lax than before BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Never mind that more domestic oil drilling won’t make a noticeable dent in gas prices, since oil prices are controlled on a global market.

Never mind that experts and most Americans agree that the only real solution to lower the pain at the pump is to develop more efficient cars, not more oil wells on our coastal horizons.

Never mind that we’ve already increased drilling substantially in the United States and the only thing that’s happened to gas prices is that they’ve continued to rise.

While some in the House are quick to parrot the oil industry’s mantra, fortunately there are voices in the media echoing what economists know and what most Americans are starting to realize: That drilling isn’t the answer to lower gas prices.

We should listen to them.

A New York Times editorial put it best:

“With the country again facing $4-a-gallon gasoline, the time would seem ripe for a grown-up conversation on energy. What we are getting instead is a mindless rerun of the drill-baby-drill operatics of the 2008 campaign, when gas was also at $4 a gallon.

Then, as now, opportunistic politicians insisted that vastly expanded oil drilling would bring relief at the pump and reduced dependence on foreign oil.

Then, as now, these arguments were bogus.”

The Star-Ledger in New Jersey puts it even more bluntly:

“Republicans use high gas prices to push Big Oil’s agenda”

And then there’s this from the Press of Atlantic City, the part of New Jersey that would suffer the most from an oil spill – as the Press points out, not just a spill off the coast of New Jersey but one several states away.

"Why not expand offshore drilling in the face of $4-a-gallon gasoline, which could have its own negative effects on the state's tourism industry and the nation's economic recovery?

"Well, first of all, an expansion of offshore drilling would not have any immediate effect on current gasoline prices. Nor is it a sure bet that increased offshore drilling would lead to any longterm stabilization of domestic gasoline prices. Oil is an international commodity, the price of which is affected by a virtually endless list of variables.

“Expanding offshore drilling now in reaction to a temporary spike in gas prices is an emotional, politically popular response. But a very risky one for coastal South Jersey."

Risky indeed. Not just for New Jersey, but for just about every coastal state in the country, from Maine to Alaska.


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