Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Call Their Bluff: What to Do About Offshore Drilling


Based on all news accounts I've read, the GOP proposal to end the moratorium on outer continental shelf (OCS) drilling is a policy nonsequitur.

First, according to this Time article,

The Bush Administration estimates that expanded offshore drilling could increase oil production by 200,000 bbl. per day by 2030.
That's about 1% of current U.S. daily use. Based on stats that we use 25% of the world's oil, only 0.25% of daily world oil consumption, which is of course the relevant comparison. Figures in the same Time article imply that regular tuneups and properly inflated tires would save several times more oil per day starting now than OCS drilling would eventually yield.

Second, the discussions I've heard have suggested that since exploration takes a lot of time (a) no drilling could even start for 7 years, and (b) no oil would hit the market for 9 years. (I may have the details off a bit here, but I think this is an accurate description of what I've heard; corrections are of course welcome.)

A number of Dems are in favor of OCS drilling, for whatever reasons (whether the reasons are as bad as the McCain campaign's or because the Dems are afraid of the issue is immaterial). My understanding is that it hasn't come to a vote in the House primarily because Speaker Pelosi won't let it: many members from coastal states are just dead-set against ending the OCS moratorium.

Meanwhile, the McCain campaign has flogged Obama's opposition to OCS drilling (and no, Tom Brokaw, acknowledging that you would consider compromises that include things you oppose is not a "flip-flop"), suggesting that Obama is responsible for future gas price increases as a result.
McCain and his surrogates have repeatedly claimed that ending the OCS moratorium would somehow have an important effect on gas prices.

What to do

So here's my plan: call their bluff. Introduce legislation to allow OCS drilling for the next 5 years only. Every Democrat can support that bill, since it will lead to zero drilling. Republicans will have to either vote for it, in which case it will pass overwhelmingly and OCS will cease to be a contentious campaign issue, or they will have to vote against it, in which case they will have to explain why they have voted against something they say they are for (McCain himself opposed his plan until a month ago, so he will have to explain why he voted something he was for after he was against it).

So let's suppose the Republicans vote against my bill, or hold it up via filibuster in the Senate. What will be their explanation? The best one they'll have is that the bill will do nothing, since 5 years isn't long enough. And that, of course is Obama's point. Let the Republicans make it for him. Dems can just say, hey, if FIVE YEARS isn't long enough to make a difference, this must be a pretty worthless proposal.

As bluff-calling stunts go, this would be a good one.


Jaxon said...

I just ran across this interesting article "Drill Here, Drill Now," that delivered a number of interesting points about offshore drilling. One interesting fact is that 620,500 barrels of oil ooze organically from North America's ocean floors each year, compared to the average 6,555 barrels that oil companies have spilled annually since 1998. It's an interesting article and i suggest you read it.

Anonymous said...

Here's the reality of the situation.

1. We are still going to need oil for the next 50-200 years. ( = reality)

2. Two decades ago we yielded our ability to have any tangible level of control over oil supply because we reduced our ability to substantially increase domestic production due to excessive regulation. (= no foresight/poor energy policy)

3. Now, we live in a world where other countries like China and India are consuming a lot of energy and the USA is no longer as important as a buyer as we used to be, which means we've lost another element of control over supply. (= the rise of Asia means USA is less able to exert influence)

4. Our automobile industry cannot be converted from the internal combustion engine to something else in a short time period. Expect 20-50 years for that to happen. ( = reality)

5. We need a comprehensive energy plan that advocates alternative energies, allows us in the interim to regain some level of control over oil supply, and conserves. (= McCain's energy plan)

Obama needs to drop ethanol, advocate nuclear, and affirm that he will let science and the market decide which technologies should replace the internal combustion engine rather than allowing the government to select a specific technology to the detriment of other technological advancements.