The Intersection

McCain and Bush are recommending a plan for offshore drilling…

Having spent much of 2006 working hard to keep it far away from Florida’s coast, I cannot overemphasize that this is a miserable idea. Craig McClain sums it up well over at Deep Sea News:

First, the current supply of drilling ships will put a seven year hiatus on any offshore oil making it to the market. Second, our offshore oil reserves are insufficient to meet our consumption for more than a handful of years. These are not my opinions, not a liberal or conservative view, but rather fact. X divided by Y equals Z. It’s math.

i-f4202720ad8aeae59c058f1b795e769b-oiltar.JPGThanks Craig. I agree that an energy plan addressing supply rather than demand will not work. Furthermore, while we generally don’t want tankers colliding with manatees, there are broader socioeconomic considerations as well–like those residents and policymakers in states maintaining high revenues from tourism who probably don’t want to see tarballs rolling up on their beaches.


  1. #1 Bill the Cat
    July 10, 2008

    The bulk of oil leases they already have are not being drilled, and now they want more oilfields for them to hold hostage.

    Never pay a ransom. Instead hunt down the ransomers, kill them, and eat them.

  2. #2 Jim Harrison
    July 10, 2008

    Offshore drilling will not have any effect on oil prices for a very long time and certainly won’t solve the energy crisis. That doesn’t mean that offshore drilling is a bad idea, however, because even a relatively small increase in the availability of oil eight or ten years out may be very helpful in the context of what is bound to be a painful transition to a post-petroleum economy. It has also been pointed out that the cost of recovering offshore oil will increase as time goes on so that getting it fairly soon may make sense.

    The one-size-fits-all argument that offshore drilling or new coal or nuclear plants won’t solve the problem is misleading because no step can deal with the crisis alone. We’re going to end up doing all of these things because we don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing. The most critical step is energy conservation, but it just won’t be enough.

    Note that I’m not dismissing environmental or NIMBY concerns. We ought to work as hard as we can to make sure that additional drilling or new power plants have as little impact on the natural world as possible. Which is why It’s so important that the moderates, social democrats, and liberals of the world recognize the imperatives of the situation and take charge instead of leaving us all at the tender mercy of a bunch of oil company execs.

  3. #3 bigTom
    July 10, 2008

    Largely what Jim said, but I also think this subject is either a big political/psychological opportunity/threat. The opportunity, is to trade non-opposition to more drilling for conservation. The political threat is that the bad guys can continue to demagog about those nasty environmentalists causing all of our energy problems. The psychological opportunity/threat involves destroying/reinforcing the myth that we can drill ourselves out of the problem. If managed correctly relaxing restrictions, but making it clear to Joe/Jane sixpack, that oil will get increasingly scarce and expensive regardless, just maybe we can get serious conservation started. OTOH, we know our enemies are utilizing the meme, that if we could only proceed over the dead bodies of the environmentalists we can have business as usual for ever. With a massive energy crunch almost certainly right around the corner, the opportunity for mischief will be great.

    So in my opinion, if we are careful we can trade some minor relaxation of restrictions for some substantial gains in conservation.

  4. #4 Eric
    July 10, 2008

    Outstanding headline!

  5. #5 tinyfrog
    July 10, 2008

    I happened to hear some right-wing radio a few weeks ago. The host started talking about high-gas prices, and he had a list of culprits for prices. Of course, all his claim boiled down to: politicians are over-regulating us. One of causes of high gas prices (according to him) was that government is preventing offshore oil-drilling. I thought it was pretty unlikely that offshore oil-drilling would make much of a dent in the problem, but I just thought I’d mention the fact that “offshore oil-drilling” has become a cause-celebre for the right-wing media, effectively turning it into a “solution” for high-gas prices. No doubt the herd mentality will make it difficult for politicians to oppose offshore oil-drilling. I wouldn’t be surprised if the right-wing media will use their powers to turn “offshore oil-drilling” into a test of how reasonable and well-informed a politician is on the issues.

  6. #6 llewelly
    July 10, 2008

    Joe Romm has also written a more detailed article on this.

  7. #7 Eric the Leaf
    July 10, 2008

    On the one hand I think that it is about time that the issue of energy enter the dialogue at scienblogs. On the other hand, there are sites that have made this the central question for a number of years, such as, whose editorial board, contributing editors, and daily contributions are unsurpassed. The question of offshore drilling has figured prominently in recent months. I think the readership here should be made aware of the ongoing debate and knowledgeable commentary that has characterized the discussion on TheOilDrum. Still, I applaud Sheril’s entre into the discussion, and look forward to further posts on the subject.

  8. #8 Mike
    July 11, 2008

    Rasmussen poll numbers from June:

    % of Americans who support deepwater exploration: 67
    % of Americans who think it will lower gas prices: 64

    Yet again, one side has succeeded in framing the issue through simple, seemingly logical A leads to B connections, forcing the other side to reason its way out of a corner using more complicated explanations. Anyone else see a trend here?

  9. #9 tuatara
    July 11, 2008

    Yeah, but how many Californians support offshore drilling? It is fine that a bunch of folks from other parts of the country don’t care about the impact of drilling, but anyone who has surfed in Santa Barbara knows why offshore drilling blows. The anti-offshore oil drilling groups are so strong in California that there is likely to be blood in the streets before an oil well props up in NorCal.

  10. #10 D
    July 12, 2008

    (I’m not well informed on this issue so don’t chew me out too much!)

    I’m made uneasy by the environmental concern argument frankly: oil drilling imposes a significant ecological cost, and this is worrying. The oil has to come from somewhere though, and I fail to see why it must not come from the American coastline / Alaska. Last I checked, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela and the North Sea have valuable ecosystems too. To me, it seems like there’s a certain elitist arrogance to saying that this country will use a disproportionate share of the world’s oil, but won’t be contaminated by any of the drilling. Kind of like insisting that ships be decommissioned in the third world.

  11. #11 Philip H.
    July 14, 2008

    I have to agree with D that it is arrogant to use more a resource then you are willing to sacrifice yourselves. Having said that, I am originally from Louisiana, and given how badly the state is screwed up from Big Oil, I can not support the industry or any attempts to expand it. Those advocating for more oil drilling are generally either making money off oil production, or afraid of the unknowns that come from shifting away from oil.

    What I will support is real innovation to get us off oil. There was a think piece in yesterday’s Washington Post that basically said Americans need to switch to an electricity based economy, with petrochemical fuel burning reserved to creating electricity or fueling cross-country transportation. Revive the streetcars and make all trains electric!

  12. #12 fullerenedream
    July 16, 2008

    @ Philip H: I also strongly support innovation to get us off oil. That said,

    Burning petrochemical fuel to make electricity is a waste. If you burn the fuel, transfer the energy to electricity, store the electricity, then transfer it again to where you want to use it (like your car), significant amounts of energy are lost in the transfer and storage. You also lose the great advantages of petrochemical fuel: its high energy density and ease of transport. Electric trains, trolleys, cars etc are good, but only if their electricity is generated in an environmentally friendly way (low CO2 etc, ie not burning oil). Friendly enough to make up for those transfer and storage losses. That means making alternative energy power plants, and we’ve made lots of progress on that front.

  13. #13 Miles Gloriosus
    July 16, 2008

    You’re missing the point — which, for the Bushies, is the very point of the exercise.

    Mis-direction is standard operating procedure for the Bush Bunch. For example, the goal of “the surge” was never to defeat Dem Debbil Commies in Iraq. Instead, it was to stop everyone from talking about troop withdrawals and force them to argue about the semantics of “surge” versus “escalation.”

    The goal of Mr. Bush’s prattle about offshore drilling isn’t actually to produce more oil. Instead, it’s to deflect attention from his regime’s culpability for the crisis and enable him to claim that it’s all Congress’s fault.

  14. #14 Religious Non-Right
    July 16, 2008

    Certainly if some innovation comes along which enables us to reduce or “get off” oil, I’m all for that. However, what’s going to come along to do that? Biofuel seems to be out. Electric cars just seems to shift the issue to producing more electricity. Same with hydro-electric. You still need energy, its gotta come from somewhere. I mean, I’m not as caught up as like on this issue, but it doesn’t seem that a magic bullet is coming anywhere soon.

    Yes, there are environmental concerns to offshore drilling. There are environmental concerns to any ocean drilling… period… it seems to me. Like other people have noted, its a bit odd to say “We’ll use the oil… but we don’t want to contaminate ourselves. If you are ok with that though, that’s fine”. Also, I have to wonder about one thing. Are there definitive environmental concerns? As in “If we do this, this will definitely occur… no doubt”? Or are the environmental concerns “If we do this, this might happen”?

    Yes, offshore drilling is not a magic bullet. But it still strikes me as A bullet. I mean, we know the oil is there right? Yes, it’ll take awhile to get here and its not going to be enough that we can sit back and relax and say “everything’s fine”. But as a transition measure, or even just a stopgap measure… it doesn’t seem a horrible one.

  15. #15 travc
    July 17, 2008

    We have many many good options for producing power (electricity), and the number and ‘goodness’ of those options is rapidly increasing.

    Fuel is a much harder problem, and oil is currently the only game in town. The vast bulk of our really inelastic oil demand goes to transportation fuel, and the bulk of that transportation fuel is quite simply wasted by inefficiencies.

    Offshore drilling is potentially OK, but not for the reasons being put forth now… and oil is probably the worst thing to drill for environmental impact wise.

    PS: Appealing to public opinion polls (or votes even) when the general population is worse than ignorant, they are actively misinformed, is a common tactic. There is no ‘wisdom of crowds’ when misinformation rules. It isn’t ‘framing’, it is simple dishonest manipulation of the public.

  16. #16 ngong
    July 17, 2008

    High oil prices will continue to spur alternative energy research and, to some small extent, force folks to rethink their consumption. What you don’t want to see is the sort of economy-crunching shock that dries up venture capital and forces government to focus less on the future and more on day-to-day survival. To the extent that offshore drilling can help cushion such shocks, it should be considered.

  17. #17 Mike Peters
    March 19, 2009

    I have been saying since the President Clinton days that the investments need to be made in renewable energy and public transportation. Also that gas prices will eventually go to $4.00 a gallon. Look what happnened last summer, gas prices went to $4.00 plus a gallon.
    I would add to any offshore drilling that an larger investment in renewable energy and public transportation. Nuclear energy is not the 100 percent safe source that some make it out to be. Where do we store the waste instead of in site and bomb making facilities?

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