When I saw the throngs at the RNC chanting "drill, baby drill", I thought maybe somebody had slipped some acid in my bottled water and I was hallucinating. There was a lot of talk about new domestic drilling, but somehow I'd missed the punchline and I wasn't able to fathom what the motivation was.
I think we all agree on three things about our use of oil:
1. We'd like to end our dependence on the import of foreign oil for geo-political reasons
2. We'd like to end our dependence on oil in order to minimize the effect on the environment of both carbon emissions and the ecological damage that new drilling may cause
3. Petroleum based products have gotten very expensive
So what do people think that new offshore drilling projects will accomplish in the same amount of time that the pursuit of cleaner, more efficient sources of energy won't? All I can imagine is that there is a large group of people who think domestic drilling will decrease the price of gas at the pump. I hope that's not what they think, but here's an article from Time Business and Technology from back in June of this year on the subject:
"On Wednesday morning President George W. Bush urged Congress to overturn a 26-year ban on offshore oil drilling in the U.S. and open a part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to petroleum exploration. Flanked by the secretaries of Energy and the Interior, Bush also proposed streamlining the construction process for new oil refineries, and explained that these moves would 'take pressure off gas prices over time by expanding the amount of American-made oil and gasoline.' Coming a day after Republican presumptive presidential nominee John McCain made a similar appeal to enhance domestic oil exploration, Bush was sending an unsubtle election-year message to the American public: I care about the economic toll of $4-a-gallon gas, and Democrats in Congress, who have opposed such an expansion, don't.
But there's a flaw in that logic: even if tomorrow we opened up every square mile of the outer continental shelf to offshore rigs, even if we drilled the entire state of Alaska and pulled new refineries out of thin air, the impact on gas prices would be minimal and delayed at best. A 2004 study by the government's Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that drilling in ANWR would trim the price of gas by 3.5 cents a gallon by 2027. (If oil prices continue to skyrocket, the savings would be greater, but not by much.) Opening up offshore areas to oil exploration — currently all coastal areas save a section of the Gulf of Mexico are off-limits, thanks to a congressional ban enacted in 1982 and supplemented by an executive order from the first President Bush — might cut the price of gas by 3 to 4 cents a gallon at most, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. And the relief at the pump, such as it is, wouldn't be immediate — it would take several years, at least, for the oil to begin to flow, which is time enough for increased demand from China, India and the rest of the world to outpace those relatively meager savings. 'Right now the price of oil is set on the global market,' says Kevin Lindemer, executive managing director of the energy markets group for the research firm Global Insight. President Bush's move 'would not have an impact.'"Continue reading here.
To drill or not to drill really depends on how committed the country is to conservation and to a transition to renewable energy. Today, 20% of our electricity is generated by nuclear power plants. There are already something like 120 of them in operation in the United States. In the thirty years since the last nuclear power plant was built, there have been a lot of improvements to the technology and to safety. Nuclear power is in widespread use around the world and the technology already exists. Other types of energy are in various stages of development, but by focusing on sustainable forms of energy, we not only reduce our dependence on foreign oil and our dangerous emissions, but we create new jobs and industry.
Can we agree that we need to take action now, and if so, what do you think we should do to address this problem? Is there a point I'm missing about drilling?
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Okay, it's Monday evening and I've let myself become obsessed with the election issues. Tomorrow, I will not Twitter, I will not blog, I will not surf the headlines or conduct any more research. I will not return until I've hit at least 53,000 words on my manuscript.
I hope those of you who are more accustomed to hearing me blather about books and writing and other miscellaneous neuroses will weather this period with me and I hope you're talking about these issues too, whether online or in the privacy of your own homes.
I hope to be back by Thursday with another 2,200 words of gibberish completed. Wish me luck.
Over and out.