“President Bush asked Congress on Wednesday to permit drilling for oil in deep water off America’s coasts to combat rising oil and gas prices.
“There is no excuse for delay,” the president said in a Rose Garden statement.
Bush also renewed his demand that Congress allow drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, clear the way for more refineries and encourage efforts to recover oil from shale in areas such as the Green River Basin of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
Bush said that the basin potentially contains more than three times as much recoverable oil as Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves and that the high price of oil makes it profitable to extract it.
[...] The White House estimates that there are 18 billion barrels of oil offshore that have not been exploited because of state bans, 10 billion to 12 billion in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Green River Basin.
However, much of the U.S. oil is difficult or impossible to extract under current law.
As for gas prices, resuming offshore exploration would not be a quick fix.
“If we were to drill today, realistically speaking, we should not expect a barrel of oil coming out of this new resource for three years, maybe even five years, so let’s not kid ourselves,” said Fadel Gheit, oil and gas analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. Equity Capital Markets Division.
But it almost certainly would be profitable.”
The amount that is “thought” to be extractable will last for 10 years under current demand. In reality, demand is in a state of seemingly perpetual increase so this number is an overestimate. Is 5-10 years of oil worth a lifetime of reduction in ecosystem services, habitat loss and biodiversity decline? This is typical short-term thinking spinned off as “We must do this for the poor working man and small business owner”. Those people, which my wife and I are both a part of, will not receive any relief from gas and oil expenses no matter how deep in the ocean we drill and whether everywhere square inch of the US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is dotted with oil rigs. Prices will not appreciably fall anymore. Not the $0.82 I left behind in Iowa in the late 90′s when I moved out of my hometown and started my own life as a young adult. It will still be expensive to operate hydrocarbon based machinery. The map below, from the CNN.com story, shows the extent of the EEZ.
Bush and McCain want congress to open up the full extent of the EEZ to drilling and exploration. The EEZ also covers the move sensitive habitat for ocean productivity and biodiversity whether from deep and shallow coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and southeastern US, seamounts in the northeast, kelp beds and upwelling zones in the west and even hydrothermal vents in northwest (methane seeps too in Oregon and California).
In my opinion, feel free to disagree in the comments, there is too much at stake for such little return. Indeed, the geophysical methods are not always accurate in determining how much economically extractable oil and gas reserves lie kilometers beneath the deep seafloor. Congress should not allow this short-sighted view to ruin our productive and scenic coasts. Tourism and fishing alone will probably generate more revenue over the same period of oil use.
Solutions? Improve mass transit, including upgrading the railways. Yes it costs billions of dollars, but once its done, it is maintenance costs after that. Airline companies can take the initiative and transition to railway companies to compete with the Amtrak monopoly, possible lowering prices. Encourage individual renewable energy solutions for the home including built in ground heat exchangers, solar panels (even a few sunny months a year can still help), water reclamation. Improving construction materials and home-building standards to ensure minimal heat loss. Continue development of fuel efficient cars and energy efficient appliances. Encourage less long distance travel by car or small plane. There are a plethora of ways to make improvements from the individual level to the federal level. Some of these have high up front costs, but spread over the long term (beyond the election cycle) the benefit will be immense.