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.