Did you know that America is still the third largest supplier of oil in the world? We pump around 8.3 million barrels of oil out of the ground on a daily basis, exporting around ten percent of it. The rest we consume… as well as another 12 million barrels. Every day. And the number could actually increase in coming years thanks to President Obama’s new plans.
For a guy who has clad himself in green armor, dolling out billions of dollars to fund alternative fuel research and improve the public infrastructure, approving new drilling seems counterintuitive. So is it a political olive branch to Republicans, a bent knee to oil companies, or just good forward thinking?
I’d say it is all three… if any oil is actually found. Obama’s plan opens up large swaths of the East coast from Delaware on down to oil exploration. Two-thirds of the Gulf of Mexico will be open to exploration as well as a 130 million acres in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. And, surprise surprise, the West Coast remains untouched. This is all just exploration initially though, as estimates of the oil and natural gas reserves are 30 years old. No “Drill baby drill” button has been pushed, and there isn’t an armada of oil rigs taking over the Atlantic Ocean. Yet.
All told, there are only a few years worth of supplies likely to be found at the rate we are sucking oil down. Gas prices are already starting to creep higher, even though demand remains comparatively low. Still though, in the long run this drilling could be beneficial to the country, if not the environment.
Unfortunately Obama doesn’t appear to have won any new friends with this legislation within the Republican camp. Environmentalists are taking him to task, and there will inevitably be spills, large or small. And let us not forget that Big Oil is a powerful lobbying force in Washington, and you can’t ignore them. Sad, but true. I really think this is the best deal we could have got though.
Oil production isn’t just going to disappear overnight, no matter how hard we try. And even with all the advances made in technology, it remains dirty-yet-profitable. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t set a new standard for safety and efficiency with the new drilling that will inevitably take place in this country. Make oil companies adopt ridiculous pollution and safety standards. Make the business of drilling more expensive, while using government subsidies to drive down the cost of alternative fuel and energy technologies. Besides, if we are going to be using oil, shouldn’t it come from our own backyard instead of half a world away, where standards and pollution practices aren’t as stringent as ours?
The oil won’t start flowing from these new rigs for probably ten years or more. One day, probably a long time from now, this country will celebrate when the last oil well is decommissioned. Until then though, we should focus on cleaning the industry up.