Political and Other Realities About Drilling

I agree with Jerome that an expansion of offcoast drilling for oil seems like the politically reasonable thing. It may even be the politically inevitable thing.

Though I don't agree that it will work, or that it's advisable.

As to whether it will work to lower prices at the pump, the US Energy Information Administration says that it will "not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030." According to the data analyzed by Climate Progress, a lift on the federal moratorium on additional offshore drilling leases would only release 8 billion barrels of oil. In part, because about 10 billion barrels that are covered under the federal ban are off the coast of California, and that state is in firm, bipartisan opposition to allowing further drilling off their coastline.

California has committed to an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 and the state government has no desire to have their famous beaches get trashed as badly as Alaska's coastline has been.

CP also points out, having talked to an EIA analyst about their most recent data, that oil companies already have leases and access to 34 billion barrels of offshore oil that they've chosen not to drill just as yet because of normal delays in a lengthy process. The EIA analysis suggests that an end to the federal moratorium would have no effect until 2020, and would then add perhaps an extra 150,000 barrels per day. That won't even represent a one percent increase in US output, less than one percent of estimated 2005 US consumption.

But for as long as the US continues to rely on fossil fuels, we have to deal with the fact that oil is a globally traded commodity whose production is in decline in many of the world's most significant fields, and for which demand is rapidly increasing. In particular, demand is rising in developing and producer nations, leaving markets tight even though refining capacity has increased. That 150,000 bpd would be a drop in the bucket, even against last year's global production of 73.27 million bpd.

The Senate Democratic Caucus is in accord with the EIA, that we cannot drill our way to lower gas prices.

I would hope, with the serious threat from global warming as serious as it is, that instead of further empowering the fossil fuel lobby, we would follow Iceland's example and look to other, proven energy sources, rapid advances in solar technology, and the increases in energy efficiency favored by 320 US city governments.

As many have pointed out previously, there are political realities, and then there are the geochemical realities of climate change. The climate doesn't care about calculations of political expedience on the part of the world's biggest polluter, it lacks emotion and respect for nuance, but it will respond to the increase in heat retentive gases with a destabilization of a climate favorable to human life.

I would urge Congress instead to look to ways to decrease energy costs through the deployment of carbon neutral and negative technologies. I would ask them to look to funding green collar jobs retrofitting our housing stock and other infrastructure, to both decrease energy costs and increase economic opportunity for the disadvantaged.

I would encourage them to pay attention to the chemical, physical and other factual realities of our situation, and find some way to make political realities comply with them. The climate won't ask nicely.

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