At almost $4 a gallon, filling up a gas tank literally feels like highway robbery, with the robbers being OPEC and the robbing occurring at least once a week. This constant disempowerment at the hands of Big Oil undoubtedly leads to a feeling of immense vulnerability, the kind of vulnerability that makes the chants of “Drill Baby, Drill” at the Republican National Convention almost sound like a quick and effective energy policy that will drop the price of gas and put more money back into the average American’s wallet. However, a quick glance at the facts will demonstrate that offshore drilling is neither quick nor effective and in the end, won’t drop the price of gas by more than a couple of cents. It will, however, reap disastrous environmental consequences that will affect the climate in years to come.
Offshore drilling is not an effective use of resources. Proponents of offshore drilling claim there are 18 billion barrels of drillable oil that are untapped. Currently, the world consumes 86 million barrels of oil per day, a quarter of which is consumed by the United States alone. This means that, hypothetically speaking, if the United States were the sole user of offshore oil and used only this oil, in less than three years’ time, we would be out of it and once again dependent on foreign oil. However, this scenario would not even be possible because we can only produce, at best, two to four million barrels of oil per day, thus making this attempt at “energy independence” even more laughable.
Offshore drilling is also not a quick fix. Assuming, once again, in the best case scenario, we would not get a drop of offshore oil for ten years and would not see full production until at least 2030, by which time we could have made serious progress in securing renewable energy. By the time offshore oil reaches the market, all it will feasibly be able to do is merely offset some of the depletion of current oil fields, making it comparable to putting a band-aid on a gushing wound.
As far as the price of gas goes, according to all estimates it is highly unlikely that more than a few cents will be shaved off the prices. The fact of the matter is that oil prices are set by supply and demand so that by the time offshore oil is available, the fuel demands from India and China will make the modest increase in available oil obsolete. Furthermore, should the United States produce more oil, OPEC can easily limit its exports in order to keep the supply stable and prices high. Thus, after all the money and resources are diverted from more sound and feasible renewable energy solutions, consumers will see a negligible effect in their wallets.
Environmentally speaking, the possible effects of offshore drilling range from dangerous to disastrous. Proponents of drilling cite new technology that has minimized spills from hurricanes. However, 2005’s hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused spills of at least seven million gallons of oil, a huge number even in comparison to the 11 million gallons spilled by the oft-cited 1989 Exxon-Valdez environmental disaster. In November of 2005, an oil tanker spilled an estimated one to three million gallons of oil when it hit a sunken platform in the Gulf that had drifted out of place. The affects on global warming are also numerous as each oil platform produces 214,000 pounds of air pollutants each year. Compare all of these disasters to the positive effects of clean, renewable energy. A single modern turbine can meet the annual electricity needs of five hundred homes, proving that effective energy doesn’t have to destroy our planet.
Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have very different plans for the United States when it comes to energy policy. Senator McCain’s plan touts energy efficiency with plans for clean coal technology and nuclear power, yet stops short of reality by remarking that offshore drilling is an essential aspect of America’s short term energy solution, even though effective drilling is a long term goal. Senator Obama, in comparison, has announced a $150 billion, 10 year, complete overhaul of America’s energy system, only conceding limited offshore drilling in order to win bipartisan approval of his plan, reflecting the old adage that you have to dream big to gain big.
To show unity in light of the recent economic crisis, Democrats in Congress recently dropped their push for the continuation on the moratorium of offshore drilling as part of the stopgap spending bill that will keep the government running after Congress recesses for the presidential election. Thankfully, however, no actual drilling is imminent. As Drew Hamill, spokesperson for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, commented, “The future resolution of offshore drilling will have to be addressed with a new president.”
In light of the high cost, negligible economic effect, and disastrous environmental results of offshore drilling, it is of the utmost importance for any voter to deeply consider the consequences of electing a president who thinks “Drill, Baby, Drill” is part of an effective energy policy.