A guy I know named Bruce Maiman has a subscription-only blog in which he sometimes he makes a lot of sense. Here's a chunk l enjoyed from Thursday's post, on a very timely issue of concern to all Americans. It's a little wonky in places but worth wading through.....
With gas prices where they are and economic pressures mounting, President Bush asked Congress yesterday to lift the federal ban on offshore drilling and to allow drilling in Alaska's wildlife refuge, ANWR, saying there is no excuse for delay.
Mr Bush pointed the finger of blame for past delays at Democrats on Capitol Hill who have "rejected every proposal, and now Americans are paying the price for this obstruction."
There's little chance Democrats will approve drilling offshore or in Alaska, some perhaps influenced by environmental concerns, others skeptical about the claims that drilling will solve the problem since oil from such operations will take as much as a decade to get to the pumps.
But as is often the case in politics, there's always more to the story. The NY Times notes that "the topic of coastal drilling has been an extremely sensitive one in the Bush family; Mr. Bush's father, the first President Bush, signed an executive order in 1990 banning coastal oil exploration, and Mr. Bush’s brother Jeb was an outspoken opponent of offshore drilling when he was governor of Florida."
Florida's new governor, Charlie Christ, in the past opposed offshore drilling; he's changed his mind, citing high gas prices. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in California opposes the president's call to lift the offshore drilling ban.
And while the White House says the president is considering repealing his father's order, "he's not taking any executive action." At least not yet.
The president also proposed lifting restrictions on oil shale leasing in what's called the Green River Basin of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and easing the regulatory process to expand oil refining capacity.
Fact Check: Just how much oil do we have offshore? Let's put it this way: Drilling is not gonna be like rubbing the magic lamp. We're only talking about acreage that is presently off limits, which the American Petroleum Institute says will yield about a million to two million barrels a day and that it would only yield a supply for between two to two-and-a-half years of what we use in the United States. That's all we're talking about, and that's if the drilling acreage that opens up actually turns up oil, let alone oil that's economically viable to drill. The API says --quote-- "only a small share of the leases have development potential." Now, is there more potential oil yield offshore? Yes. The oil companies have leases for 68 million acres right now that they're not drilling in, but the moratorium acreage is only about a fifth that size.
But it's not just a matter of drilling; the issue being ignored is the time it would take to drill for it. In 2004, the Energy Information Administration released a report saying that if Congress were to allow drilling in ANWR that year, the oil would not actually begin flowing until 2013 and peak production would not be reached until 2025. Offshore drilling? We'd have to wait 7-10 years for oil to arrive at the pumps. What do we do in the meantime?
Last year, the EIA did a detailed study of the likely outcome of offshore drilling that concluded: "The projections in the OCS access case indicate that access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030. The impact of the projected 7% increase in lower-48 oil production that might result is expected to be insignificant."
And, while the president promised "about a million additional barrels of oil every day," just from ANWR alone, he neglected to mention that, according to Energy Literacy Advocates, the U-S uses 21 million barrels of oil a day. The additional production would account for less than five percent of our current total oil use. Even adding in the additional million-to-two-million barrels a day from offshore drilling (if we do that), that's still only by today's consumption standard; in 10 years, more people, more cars, more energy needs, what will the demand be then? Not to mention the price of a gallon of gas?
And let's not forget that none of this drilling --none of it-- will be worth squat without the capacity to refine the product, and in case you hadn't heard, the average length of time it takes to build a refinery from start to finish, from the moment ground is broken to the moment the plant is online? Seven years. Again, what good is that going to do us today?
The real deal: This issue is being politicized --shocker! If you're pro-drilling, you should be madder than the people who are against it. Here's why: There are two orders that keep Big Oil from drilling offshore in these areas right now. One is from Congress; the other is an executive order signed by the president that bans new leases being handed out until at least 2012. That executive order came from the George Bush --the first President Bush, not this one. Here's what's interesting. President Bush is telling Congress they need to eliminate their bill, but he hasn't done his part by withdrawing the executive order. If he's really interested in doing this, why hasn't he rescinded the executive order, which he could do just by signing a piece of paper? He's the decider, ain't he?
He's not doing it because the House Appropriations Committee was supposed to vote yesterday on whether or not to extend the offshore ban (which goes to 2012 right now) --they postponed the vote. Congress is an important part of this story, too, but so is the president.
Now withdrawing his father's order wouldn't okay drilling --Congress has to vote on that-- but it would allow new leases to be given out. And more important, it would be a sign of executive leadership, the kind we need on this issue, but instead, he'd rather blame Democrats and environmentalists?
Everyone has to give a little bit here and pull their own weight, but we're getting nothing more than politics, which should have both sides ticked off.
Campaign Analysis: The president's call for offshore drilling have injected him squarely into the presidential campaign, by putting the full weight of the White House behind John McCain at a time when the Senator is trying to demonstrate presidential stature. But it will also expose McCain to accusations from Democrats that a McCain presidency would be akin to a Bush third term.
At the same time, the move will put the onus on Democrats, many of whom have long been staunchly opposed to offshore drilling. And it is likely to exacerbate the 30-year-old standoff in Washington over whether domestic drilling or conservation is the way to end American dependence on foreign oil.
The prevailing sentiment in the country is that oil is not necessarily the way to go. Reasons include:
--Resentment towards oil companies for the high gas prices
--Others don't trust the oil companies and suspect the prices aren't going to drop anyway
--Still others worry about the environment
--Others say the president never mentioned conservation or fuel efficiency standards, the so-called CAFÉ standards. Why aren't we pushing Detroit to meet CAFE standards, standards the Japanese have been meeting for years?
--Others who can't afford to gas up their cars right now wanna know what good it'll do to have the oil 10 years from now? The pressure may be less about drilling and more about today, what about today?
Bottom line: The problem with the president's proposal is that it's not a mandate; it's not the Manhattan Project everyone says the country needs, and frankly, the president has none of the political capital, public equity or leadership capacity to make that happen. Everything he said today was about just one part of the equation: Oil, and if anyone has an even worse approval rating than the president, it's Big Oil. We're being asked to put our trust in an entity that no one trusts. That's a hard sell politically, particularly when you're an unpopular lame duck president.
What will have more resonance is a call to change the country's entire energy infrastructure, and that requires the pursuit of energy solutions on all fronts --oil, nuclear and alternative-- and it needs to be smart and practical.
Consider Honda Motors, which, incidentally has far greater brand integrity than the oil industry, rolled their first zero-emissions, hydrogen fuel cell car off the assembly line this week in Japan --the four-seat, FCX Clarity. It gets 300 miles on a single fuelling with a top speed of 99 mph. Some of them will be leased in California to start, more cars are due out next year and Honda plans to be at full mass-production capacity of a fuel-cell car within ten years.
That's the same 10 years the Energy Department has said it will take for oil from ANWR or offshore to get to our gas stations. Which is the wiser long-term investment, drilling for oil we won't see for 10 years, or developing and improving a mode of transportation that will make oil obsolete as a fuel source for the automobile? By all means, do both; do everything, but let's do it with common sense. Right?
Me again. The one major plot line Bruce leaves out is the Democrats' ridiculous plan recently to further tax the "windfall profits" of the oil companies. Since when do we want our government deciding how much profit a business can make? Except for price gouging situations in the time of actual emergencies, who is to say how much profit is "enough" anyway? There are plenty of companies with a higher profit margin than Exxon-Mobil - Microsoft for example. Should the government tell them how much they are allowed to make too? And by-the-way, the feds make more in gasoline taxes per gallon sold than the oil companies do! How about we start reducing the cost to the consumer from there first?