All those big oil and gas supporters must be feeling threatened. On Thursday, Al Gore issued a challenge for America to produce 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy and carbon-free sources within the next 10 years, and repeated the challenge again at Netroots Nation over the weekend.
Now conservatives are hitting back by playing on the realities of high fuel costs and the fears of even higher costs in the future. John McCain introduced a new advertisement called "The Pump," that suggests that Obama is responsible for high gas prices. "Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump?" the ads asks, as a crowd in the background shouts, "Obama, Obama!" As hopeful music plays in the background, the ad continues, "One man knows we must now drill more in America and rescue our family budgets."
In an op-ed in the New York Sun today, Charles Sahm of the Manhattan Institute argues for offshore drilling, backing up his argument with questionable premises including that fact that Brazil does it, so it must be ok, and that a Zogby poll found 74% of Americans support offshore drilling. (You know that if the public thinks it's a good idea, then it must be so. So much for the fact that most respondents probably just want lower gas prices.)
It seems that McCain and the Manhattan Institute need to do their fact checking. Conservatives repeatedly have touted offshore drilling as a quick solution, the magic bullet that would bring back our cheap gas. "The country will need to pursue all energy options in the years ahead," writes Sahm. "...For the foreseeable future, however, oil and natural gas will remain a major part of our overall energy picture." McCain concurs, saying that lifting the ban on off-shore drilling "would be very helpful in the short term in resolving our energy crisis."
Unfortunately for him, this just isn't true. Oil exploration and drilling takes years, and experts agree (check out this HuffPo survey of economists on the drilling ban) that the ban would have no impact for several decades, and at that point only a minor one. Even Guy Caruso, the head of the Energy Information Administration who was appointed by Bush, said that the price decrease was likely to be "muted" because "It does take a long time to develop those resources." For a great analysis of why offshore drilling is unlikely to be profitable and why the oil industry currently has plenty of undiscovered oil to tap into, check out Joseph Romm's post on Grist.
Strangely enough, McCain admitted that offshore drilling was pretty much worthless only a month ago during a campaign stop in Wisconsin. "[W]ith those resources, which would take years to develop, you would only postpone or temporarily relieve our dependency on fossil fuels," McCain said. And in 1999, while running for president, McCain said just as much when he claimed that it was the "special interests in Washington" that wanted offshore drilling. At point, McCain supported the moratorium.
So where's the straight talk now, Mr. McCain?