Very recently (July 14th) President Bush lifted the ban on offshore drilling for oil that his father had put in place some 18 years ago. If you know me, or have ever even looked at my other notes, profile, political views, etc. then you probably can guess which side of the issue my opinion falls on.
The politicians in support of lifting the ban claim that it will not only lower gas prices immediately, but lifting it will also begin the process of the United States becoming 'energy dependent.' While both of these statements may have some truth to them, they do not encompass all of the impacts that offshore drilling will have on our oil supply, the economy, the environment and, seemingly most importantly, GAS PRICES (gasp!!).
Truth is, the quick-fix of offshore drilling is not as efficient as some may think it is. People will automatically argue that since the ban has been lifted, gas prices at the pump have gone down. My response to this argument is simple and relatively irrefutable, as it is echoed by experts and analysts who study in this field.
The decrease in gas prices at the pump is a reaction to the SPECULATION of increased supply. However, the global demand remains the same (actually it's rising) which means that minimally increasing the supply over a long period of time (an idea which I will cover shortly) does practiacally nothing to gas prices over the long-term and only adds to the adverse effects of PEAK OIL (a completely separate discussion is needed for this principle...check it out though), the strain on the environment and inhibits the very important search for alternative fuels.
The specific problems associated with offshore drilling are quite numerous. First, relying solely on offshore drilling in the present is a COMPLETELY INEFFICIENT way to combat the domestic and global energy crisis. I agree that offshore drilling, when thought out very carefully and combined with many other methods of obtaining alternative energies, can and will be an effective way to supplement the oil supply. However, I hear all the time that THE ANSWER is offshore oil drilling. This is where the inefficiency comes in...
Analysts say the process of offshore drilling is in itself very inefficient. We are looking at at least a decade for production of tangible oil to even begin. This delay is caused by obtaining permits, acquiring the necessary equipment and actually performing the exploration for the oil ( not to mention the cost of doing all of this). The slight decrease in gas or oil prices in that time is based solely on speculation, as I have mentioned before. However, as has been documented, the global demand for oil IS NOT decreasing and is in fact GROWING.
Some people at this point might be saying that the new oil produced is domestic so it will not be affected by the global demand. The fact is that oil is and will continue to be a global commodity whose price is set based on global demand. No producer of domestic offshore oil is going to lower the price of his product because it is the right thing to do for the American people. Come on now, the market for anything, and especially oil, does not work that way (I mean, it is just about the most lucrative industry in the history of human civilization).
Here is a quote from the Boston Globe that pretty much mirrors what I have just said...
"Suppose the US produced all its oil domestically," said Robert Kaufmann, director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies at Boston University. "Do you think oil companies would sell oil to US consumers for one cent less than they could get from French consumers? No. Where oil comes from has no effect on price."
(Lisa Wangsness, June 20, http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/06/20/new_offshore_drilling_not_a_quick_fix_analysts_say/)
Secondly, the amount of oil available in offshore drilling sites is projected to be relatively low. About 86 billion barrels may lie offshore, but considering that the global market consumes 86 million barrels a day with about a quarter of that going to the US, 86 billion barrels is a relatively low amount...so let's do some math. If these figures are correct, then the US currently uses around 21.5 million barrels a day. If we were to be selfish and keep all of this oil we drill offshore (hmmm), and assuming that ALL of this oil is usable sweet crude oil, we would have approximately 4000 days worth of oil. That's only 11 years, and it seems like 11 years is always portrayed as a lifetime. Honestly, that is no time at all.
11 years is enough time for politicians to argue for offshore drilling. You might hear the argument that in those 11 years technology will catch up, and we will no longer have to rely on oil as our dominant energy source (through the development of alt. energies and such). Oil is too profitable of a business (to politicians in particular i.e. Haliburton) to allow or promote such development and research of other technologies. Also, this 11 years is assuming that the temptations of greed don't take over and lead to our supposed new domestic supply finding its way into foreign hands (this is especially relevant as the value of the dollar continues to fall). We are by nature greedy, so my best judgement tells me that the oil obtained won't remain domestic for long.
Lastly, I will present a brief argument about the impacts of offshore drilling on the environment. The obvious risk is that of oil spills. An oil spill into a sea or another major body of water could have catastrophic consequences on numerous fragile ecosystems. Also, residual fuels from the process are also known to be toxic, which I can't imagine could be good for the environment either. I'm not as 'well-versed' on the environmental impacts as with the other facets of my argument so I will stop here.
In conclusion, I am not wholly 100% against offshore drilling. I know, that may sound like a ridiculous contradiction, but it is true. What I am against is the political side of the issue that claims that offshore drilling is the key and the answer for the future. It's just not the case. I believe that offshore drilling could be extremely valuable if it is not treated as a quick-fix (like ethanol...*see food prices*). We need to have a multi-faceted approach to the energy crisis. Lifting the ban on offshore drilling at this period of time is a purely political move, as it has had a marginal but noticable effect on gas prices. Now is not the right time for the ban to be lifted. Maybe in the future, when the political implications are significantly reduced, but NOT NOW!!
All of the problems I have suggested about offshore drilling exist only if we use it as the sole solution. With much time and care, offshore drilling can be a
safe(r), beneficial supplement to the oil supply (as long as demand goes remains steady or falls) that combines with various alternative fuels and constant, global conservation efforts to combat the current global energy crisis.