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Book of Matthew: Offshore drilling: A terrible idea

Published: August 29, 2008
Section: Opinions


According to a recent opinion poll published by CNN/Opinion Research Corp., sixty-nine percent of Americans favor an increase in offshore drilling, while only thirty percent oppose. Fifty-one percent of Americans believe that such an increase will result in lower gas prices by as early as 2009.

Rarely is such a blatantly terrible idea met with such public approval. For that, you may thank some of our deliberately misleading (or just plain idiotic) politicians, along with their corporate and media allies.

Every day, the pro-drilling crowd attacks the weakness of otherwise sensible Americans – the pain inflicted by high gas prices. They write newspaper and magazine articles, make bold announcements on television and radio, and even stage protests in the halls of Congress. Readers, I am sure that over the summer you have been familiar with their antics. In the coming weeks, you may even read articles in this publication that use the same talking points, the same faulty logic in order to convince you that the only way out of this energy crisis is to drill like there’s no tomorrow. But readers, you deserve more than that. You deserve the truth.

Now that President Bush has symbolically removed the executive ban on drilling, areas off the coasts of Florida and California are currently only being protected by a ban issued by Congress, which is set to expire on September 30th of this year. If this is allowed to happen, it will only be a matter of time before oil companies begin to build their rigs.

It must not be allowed to happen.

First of all, it isn’t even practical to use these offshore oil reserves as a way to lower gas prices. If the ban were lifted tomorrow, and oil companies began the process of drilling tomorrow, it might take five, ten, even thirty years before these oil rigs would be able to operate at “full capacity”, a quantity that has been estimated to be about 250,000 barrels of oil per day.

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?

It’s too bad that oil is traded on the world market, because in 2006, the world consumed about 84.6 million barrels of oil per day. By 2015, it is believed that this number could rise to 96.1 million barrels of oil per day. Suddenly, it seems inconceivable that such a small number like 250,000 barrels, whenever they will be able to enter the market, will actually influence the price of oil any more than a few cents.

But math aside, there is a second reason to hold on to this ban. Our environment. As far as the environment is concerned, drilling for or transporting oil over water is generally a bad idea. Oil spills are devastating for marine life, and equally devastating for economies that depend on this life (fishing, etc.). The Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989, for example, was such a disaster that even now, nineteen years later, its effects are still felt by the wildlife and people who populate the area.

All it takes is another damaged oil tanker, another hurricane, another earthquake, and we could be dealing with another oil disaster.

Well readers, it seems like we Americans are not doing a terribly good job of solving this crisis. We could be pushing to halt to use of oil altogether, while simultaneously pushing for a rapid expansion of safe, proven, alternative sources of energy like solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and hydrogen. But we are not. Like a junkie who is beginning to run out of drugs, we are engaged in a mad rush for what little oil is left in the world. Instead of ending our addiction once and for all, we only make sorry, halfhearted attempts, and then we return to our oil-loving ways.

September 30th is coming fast. I suggest you write to your Senators and Congressmen, and urge them not to listen to the oil hype. Remind them that the age of oil is over, and that, in the words of T. Boone Pickens (of all people), “this is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of.”