The big offshore lie
By Kate Sheppard
The Obama administration, in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster, has apparently decided that digging in on its misguided decision in March to expand offshore drilling is the way to go.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar dug in to defend the administration's drilling plans last week. "We should be honest with ourselves. … We are dependent on oil and gas and we will be," Salazar told senators. "As an economy in transition, it's something that we need to do." Obama, too, reaffirmed his belief that offshore drilling should remain in the country's energy portfolio in his weekly address Saturday.
But the Obama administration is basing this argument on a dubious premise -- that more drilling will enhance the nation's energy security. Yet drilling offshore here will not do much in that regard, or at least not nearly as much as smarter use of oil would. The U.S. uses 23 percent of total world oil consumption, but has only 3 percent the world’s oil reserves within its borders. Drilling off every coast in the U.S. won’t resolve that issue. Even the most productive portion of the new area opened to drilling in the March announcement, a 24 million acre area of the eastern gulf, is expected to yield only 3.5 billion recoverable barrels of oil. The U.S. consumes 19.5 million barrels of oil per day, which means that these wells would only produce about 180 days worth of oil – hardly worth the catastrophic situation we face in the gulf today.
Far more reduction in our oil imports will come through the fuel efficiency measures that the administration has already taken. The new automobile fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks that the administration outlined last month are anticipated to cut oil use 11.6 billion gallons per year by 2016. The executive order Obama issued to raise mileage standards for heavy trucks could cut oil consumption another 11 billion gallons by 2030. Those are the right steps.
Jonathan Hiskes at Grist sums up the reality of offshore drilling and how much more we could do through additional, meaningful efficiency measures quite nicely here, and offers 10 suggestions for what else the U.S. might do:
Domestic offshore drilling produced 537 million barrels a year over the last nine years, according to the Minerals Management Service. A full-bore efficiency plan would save the equivalent of 85 years of offshore drilling.
The other ideas aren't all that radical: educating people about keeping their tires inflated, improving urban planning, encouraging telecommuting. They're sure a lot less complicated than plugging an oil gusher a mile below the gulf has turned out to be.
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