Friday, June 20, 2008

More Oil Drilling

There has been a moratorium on new offshore drilling in the US since 1981. Recent Gallup Polls show that 57% of Americans favor drilling offshore and in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge "if it helped reduce gas prices" and was done "under strict environmental controls."

Predictably, Republicans are sensing serious Democratic vulnerability on the subject. According to right-wing hack Patrick Ruffini, a recent effort by the American Family Association to generate support for drilling (what's that? Don't they only cover abortion and gay marriage and stuff? Well, now they're telling their supporters that $10 gas is a realistic prospect "in the future.") which has resulted in 400,000 letters sent to Congress to urge them to lift the moratorium. Newt Gingrich has 1 million signatures on a petition supporting drilling now.

Clearly, the GOP's support for drilling is purely political, designed to embarrass Obama and the Democratic Party. A study released last month by the government's own Energy Information Administratoin shows that any drilling begun now in ANWR would have no meaningful effect on gas prices in the near term. It will take us a decade to see any oil, and the study suggests that the median effect on prices is only two cents per gallon by 2025. That's 17 years away, "my friends." If that's the case, then one has to assume a similarly long view on the benefits of drilling offshore.

Sullivan seems to be the only conservative out there who sees the folly in the GOP taking this position:
Well, [voters] know the profit-gouging argument is baloney. But they also know that China is the real culprit for exploding demand, that off-shore drilling won't make any difference to anything in the next few years, and that getting off our oil addiction and innovating non-carbon energy is the only effective way forward. Last time I checked, the cure for oil addiction is not providing more of it.

I definitely do not relish the idea of Obama being painted as the guy who supports higher gas prices by opposing offshore drilling. But Obama needs to hammer on how silly this argument is. Point to facts, produced by the US government itself, showing NO short-term benefit from drilling in ANWR or offshore. Point to exploding industrialization in China create high demand and siphoning off supply and causing the spike (not to mention the fact that the Chinese gov't. subsidizes lower gasoline prices). Point to the notion that this is just another example of Republican fear-mongering that prices for gas are going to go through the roof if we don't drill now.

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