The Bush administration is making a concerted effort to force Congress into lifting the legislative ban on oil and gas drilling on the outer continental shelf (OCS). Just the other day, he lifted the executive ban, in an attempt to push the issue and make the Democrats look like they are the reason gas is over four dollars a gallon.
Don't be fooled!
Perhaps no one in Congress is more supportive of President Bush's misguided effort to lift the OCS drilling ban than U.S. Representative John Peterson. In a recent op-ed piece, Rep. Peterson stated that:
the U.S. Minerals Management Service estimates (conservatively) that the OCS holds 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas - the equivalent of 35 years of imported oil from OPEC and an 18-year supply of natural gas.
What Rep. Peterson or President Bush won't tell you is that the U.S. cannot drill its way to energy independence; and no amount of domestic drilling will lower the price of gas at the pump.
The Department of Energy, through it's Energy Information Administration, estimates that a total of 59 billion barrels of oil exists on the OCS, 32% lower than Rep. Peterson's figures. More important, and what Rep. Peterson and President Bush do not want the public to know, is that the Department of Energy acknowledges that even if the U.S. drilled on the OCS, it
"would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030."
The Department of Energy further states that even if the U.S. drills on the OCS,
"because oil prices are determined on the international market, however, any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant."
That's right. The Bush administration's own Department of Energy admits that drilling on the OCS will be "insignificant" in terms of lowering costs for the American consumer.
Rep. Peterson's claim that drilling on the OCS would offset 35 years worth of imported oil from OPEC nations is nothing more than political pandering. First, Canada is the largest exporter of crude oil to the U.S. In fact, nearly half of our imported oil comes from non-OPEC nations. Second, the U.S. exports about half a billion barrels of petroleum every year, approximately one-quarter of total annual imports from OPEC nations. If the U.S. just stopped exporting the petroleum it already produces, we could cut OPEC imports by 25 percent, without drilling one more well. Rep. Peterson ignores this and simply calls for more drilling, even though there is no guarantee the oil and gas that would be produced on the OCS would not be exported as well.
This raises the issue of not just how we reduce OPEC imports, but how we reduce our oil consumption overall. Perhaps Rep. Peterson's most misleading statement in his op-ed was:
"America must produce more, conserve more and invest more in renewables."
This just goes to show how vapid Rep. Peterson's commitment to conservation really is. You cannot produce more and conserve more. More oil production simply induces more consumption. Keep in mind that oil and gas drilling is already at record levels in many parts of the U.S. and, so far, there has been no corresponding reduction in fuel costs.
If we want to lower the price of gas at the pump, we must reduce our oil consumption. Despite being just 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. consumes 25 percent of the world's oil, roughly 7.5 billion barrels a year. (For the previous link, you'll find total world oil consumption at the bottom and total U.S. consumption about half-way down). This graphdemonstrates precisely why the U.S. must reduce demand rather than increase production. I included the annual oil production of Pennsylvania just to show how insane drilling for oil is there when you consider our consumption. And as I alluded to above, Pennsylvania is one of those areas where oil and gas drilling is at record levels.
Reducing our share of total world oil consumption would do much more to lower prices than any amount of increased domestic drilling ever could. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S. could easily reduce its oil consumption by increasing automobile fuel efficiency, reinvesting in public transportation and inter-city railways, creating tax incentives for hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles, and promoting smart growth initiatives that reduce suburban sprawl and, therefore, the need to drive.
Of course, this does not fit with Rep. Peterson's or the Bush administration's "drill here, drill now" agenda coined by the oil and gas industry, which stands to reap windfall profits at the expense of our forests, waterways and coastlines.
Increased domestic oil and gas drilling might make it seem like the U.S. is proactively addressing the problems we are facing today, but it does nothing but continue the ill-fated policies of the past that got us to where we are today - and it will do nothing to lower prices for Americans. The answer to our energy problems must begin with conservation.
Conserve here, conserve now.