A day after Sen. John McCain made news suggesting states be given authority to allow oil and gas drilling off their coasts, President Bush will ask Congress to repeal a ban instituted by his father in 1990.With gas at $4 a gallon, could offshore drilling increase supply enough to save you money?.
The Wall Street Journal, which has long supported more oil and gas development, notes that we have about 86 billion barrels of oil off our coasts. That's about eight years' worth at present rates of consumption.
McCain said there are 21 billion "untapped" barrels of oil, or closer to two years' worth.
So assume McCain's being conservative or the Wall Street Journal bullish. Either way, more drilling isn't a long-term solution to high energy prices or tight world oil supplies.
It could be that the oil we drill for buys us the time we need to invest in alternatives, or it could be that it just delays the inevitable, while the atmosphere continues to fill up with the carbon released by burning fossil fuels. It could be we sacrifice pristine and scenic ocean areas for the short-term profits of oil companies that already have fat wallets. (An expert quoted in Andy Revkin's Dot Earth blog suggests drilling for oil here would do little but offset lost output from existing wells, but it would be more ethical than drilling elsewhere.)
An alternative to increasing supply, or at least a wise parallel strategy, is to decrease demand. There's no cheaper barrel of oil than the one we don't burn, and don't buy.
In the short term, we can all take steps to limit our consumption of oil, which has an immediate effect on our wallets. Consider these tips for finding gas at less than $1 a gallon.
In the long term, whether or not we drill for oil off the coasts, we'll need alternative fuels to keep our cars running.
So would off-shore U.S. oil save U.S. consumers money? Eventually, after years of exploration and construction of the infrastructure to extract the oil and deliver it to the market, maybe some. For a couple years.
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