Drill, baby drill makes me ill, baby ill.
Posted September 15, 2008
This is the week that Democratic leaders in Congress are expected to bring their energy legislation to a vote. Although details have yet to emerge it’s a safe bet that opening some offshore areas to oil drilling will be a key part of the package, presumably along with measures meant to weaken our oil addiction through policies that promote more solar, wind and other clean, renewable energy.
Predictably, Republican leaders who purportedly support “all of the above” energy strategies are ready to reject the Democratic compromise proposal because it doesn’t go far enough on drilling. Their “drill, baby, drill” fixation calls for opening all coastal areas to more oil drilling, and as close to our beaches as possible.
It’s ridiculous that drilling has arisen as the linchpin of any energy legislation. In the face of high gas prices most people, it seems, have been hoodwinked by the false notion that drilling will ease their pain at the pump. Let me repeat: this is Big Oil’s big lie. It’s a hoax, a scam, a sham – and a shame.
Don’t bother trying to find the truth in newspapers, many of which have botched the reporting on this issue – pitting this as a simple “he said/she said” story with no clearly defined answer. On the contrary, the facts are very clear: Drilling here and now will NOT lower gas prices today, tomorrow or really ever. Drilling is not a solution, but a distraction being used by elected officials to score political points during an election year.
Don’t take my word for it. A little-noticed article by the well-respected independent journal Scientific American explains the situation quite well.
The article asks: Can offshore drilling really make the U.S. oil independent? In other words, can “drill, baby, drill” give us our fill so we won’t have to rely on oil imports from foreign nations?
Well, the article begins by recognizing that there remains quite a bit of oil lying untapped under America’s soil and off our coasts. However, our nation consumes roughly a quarter of the world’s total oil supply, yet we have less than 3% of the word’s supply. Even though oil companies have access to more than 80% of all available U.S. oil, drilling the last 20% would not make a dent in our available supply. The math just doesn’t add up. So our problem is not really one of supply, but demand. We need to use less oil – which is in fact happening now that the price of gas is so high that people are driving less.
As the article points out, there are many places where oil companies could be drilling right now in the U.S. but they don’t. For example, companies have yet to take advantage of the nearly 86 billion barrels of offshore in areas already available for leasing and development. Why not? More important, why the clamor to open up even more of our fragile coasts to drilling then?
Energy expert Robert Kaufman answers that question in the article, saying “Oil company stocks are valued in large part based on how much proven reserves they have.” Translation: just having more promising leases in hand would be worth billions of dollars.
So Shell (and others) are playing a cynical shell game with American consumers. They want more of our oil to increase their companies’ stock portfolios. Even if they never drill it, just having it on their books is profitable. And if they do ever decide to drill in those places, the sale of our “American” oil would not be restricted to America – it would be sold on the world market. And you can bet the price of that won’t be cheap.
Unfortunately, the distortions in the ongoing political debate are drown out by the truth. Congress is about to capitulate to the oil companies by giving them permission to further exploit our coasts and special places. Drilling for the truth is being pushed aside for…well…more drilling.
I, for one, feel ill, baby, ill.