As Senator John McCain urges for more oil drilling, some in Washington still oppose lifting the ban that's been in place for 27 years (interesting, a Washington Post article points out, since McCain was opposed to the practice himself, most notably in his 2000 presidential campaign, until he reversed his position last month).
People all over the country stand on different sides of the argument.
But just how much oil exists offshore, anyway?
An article in the San Francisco Chronicle suggests that U.S. offshore oil fields could hold enough crude to supply all of the country's needs for more than 11 years.
Or they might not. No one knows, of course, because no one has looked for new oil sources off the east and west coasts of the country for years.
The article says the federal government estimates that the nation's outer continental shelf might hold 85.9 billion barrels of crude, including 10.13 billion barrels off California. For perspective, the United States consumes about 7.56 billion barrels of oil per year.
Ken Medlock, an energy research fellow at Rice University's James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy is quoted: "You don't really know what's there until you go out and drill a well. And even then, you're not 100 percent sure of what you're going to get."
The process is so slow that any new oil wouldn't be available to consumers until midway through the next decade, suggesting that offshore drilling is not going to make a difference at the pump.
The U.S. Department of Energy, estimated last year that opening the coasts to offshore drilling would have no significant impact on oil prices before 2030.
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