Oil companies want more access to more oil in Alaska and off the coasts of the continental United States. It's currently off-limits due to environmental concerns. Sen. John McCain, as president, would push to open off-shore sites to drilling, while Sen. Barack Obama would not (neither would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge).
McCain said there are 21 billion "untapped" barrels of oil in the United States, and he wants to see each state, rather than the federal government, decide whether to exploit off-shore reserves.
It's a response to high oil and gas prices, which American voters tell pollsters are making them dizzy. But would new domestic oil production make much of a difference?
Most untapped oil (13.3 billion barrels, according to the Wall Street Journal) is in ANWR, which both candidates agree should remain off limits.
And tapping any new source of oil would take years to yield marketable oil.
Meanwhile, it's a global market. Even Saudi Arabia, by increasing production 200,000 barrels a day, will do little more than dent the record-high prices. Demand from China and other fast-developing nations is rising, and showing no sign of slackening.
The alternative to increasing supply is to decrease demand. Who cares how much oil costs if we don't burn it? More efficient vehicles, alternative fuels and ultimately cars that run on electricity, may well be a better strategy for reining in high transportation costs.
Whatever strategy politicians decide on, don't expect results immediately.
In the meantime, consider these tips for finding gas at less than $1 a gallon.
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