Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Offshore Drilling Insanity

Normally, I plan to steer this blog away from politics. This journal is specifically intended for discussion of individual lifestyle and worklife planning and, as such, is meant to appeal to an audience of broad political and social views. However, occasionally policy collides with the world of offshore telecommuting, and where it does so, I will not shy from expressing my opinions.

The recent crisis related to rising gas prices has once again ignited the debate about so-called “offshore drilling. The practice was banned for certain protected areas in American waters by the U.S. Congress in the 1980s, which was later supplemented by an Executive Order from President George H.W. Bush. The oil companies, with the help of the Republican Party, the Bush Administration and Presidential candidate John McCain, have turned the public in favor of revisiting the issue. In an election year, even Democratic candidate for President Barack Obama is starting to waffle. The debate has begun anew: with skyrocketing gas prices, should currently protected areas be re-open to drilling for oil and natural gas?

The crazy thing about this 'debate' is that it seems to be completely disconnected from the real world. The U.S. government believes that there are about 18 billion barrels of oil in the areas in question, which amounts to about an extra two million barrels of oil for 25 years, and even that amount would not be forthcoming for another five to ten years.

With current global oil production approximating 85 million barrels per day, the extra two million barrels would increase supply by a paltry 2.4%. In other words, all this new drilling near some of the most scenic coastline in America, at best, will lower prices by a few pennies.

Oil companies and politicians that support offshore drilling claim that there is only a minimal danger to the environment. Perhaps they are right. If so, the debate really ought to be about the potential damage to the environment and economy of the states affected, versus the very small decrease in gas prices which might be realized a decade or more from now.

But that’s not what the discussion is about. It is about a fantasy in which supporters of offshore drilling imply,, that gasoline prices will drop by large amounts immediately. Take this recent quote from John McCain: "“We’re not going to pay $4 dollars a gallon for gas (when I am president) because we are going to drill offshore and we are going to drill now. "

So why, as an expat wannabe, am I so greatly concerned about the potential damage to American oceans and beaches? Two reasons: One, I am still an American and will always patronize beaches in the States. Secondly, the offshore drilling madness will surely not be isolated to the United States. Watch out as some of our most pristine island getaways feel the pressure to allow drilling near there shores.

My hope is that rationality will finally enter this discussion. If the public wants to support the policy being proposed by Bush, McCain, and Obama, it should only do so knowing the potential gas price decreases are minimal. Unfortunately, the U.S. media coverage I have seen so far does not give me much hope that the people will be given the facts.

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