By Kenneth Medlock
Fellow in Energy Studies, James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy/ Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Economics at Rice University
Among the many chants from the raucous crowd during Sen. John McCain’s acceptance speech at the Republican Convention earlier this month was, “drill, baby, drill!”
This is a good idea. We must produce more oil domestically and put a greater proportion of our nation’s energy future in our own hands.
The renewed focus on offshore drilling is still a topic of conversation nationwide including at Opposing Views.
On the site I debate representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club, who both say NO to offshore drilling. The NRDC says, “it could be years before America reaps any benefits from expanded coastal drilling, and even then it will be a matter of cents, not dollars.” The Sierra Club raises environmental concerns: “…there is no safe way to drill our coasts. Where there is drilling, there are oil spills,” claims Sierra.
This is simply NOT true.
While the estimated 19 billion barrels of oil just sitting offshore amounts to only two years of our consumption, a more appropriate way to consider the issue is that if the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) could provide an additional production of 1 million barrels per day of oil, our Persian Gulf imports could be reduced by up to 40 percent. At 1 million barrels per day, 19 billion barrels would last about 50 years.
Some opponents point out that there may not even be 19 billion barrels. But, in fact, there may be more! Isn’t it better to know than to not know? If there isn’t much oil, then drilling won’t occur anyway.
We must also remember that the Interior Department says the offshore oil industry is among the safest in the country. In fact, a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences reports that in the last 15 years there were zero platform spills greater than 1,000 barrels.
Then there is our nation’s so called “addiction to oil.” While I agree we must find alternatives, that shouldn’t preclude more drilling. Development of new oil supplies should be considered an interim step that is part of a larger strategy designed to move us toward an economy that is no longer so utterly dependent on oil. I propose diverting some of the profits from new drilling to research for alternative energy, this way resources from the Outer Continental Shelf could serve as a bridge to a new energy future.
A new energy future is what our country needs –- we all can agree on that. To drill or not to drill, that is the question. If it can help us get to that new future, why wouldn’t we?
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