We Cannot Drill Our Way Out of The Energy Crisis 08.24.08 Search

Myths and Falsehoods Are Leading Us Nowhere

Dennis Chamberlain

We cannot drill our way out of this mess. We can create a sound energy policy that can lead the world in efficient vehicles and power generation. Through conservation and efficiency we can put the interests of the American families ahead of big oil.

The question remains: What are we going to do about our addiction to oil? The recent clamor for coastal and Arctic drilling has reached a fever pitch. The Bush administration and drilling proponents are leading us down the wrong path with misleading and false information.

We cannot drill our way out of this mess. We can create a sound energy policy that can lead the world in efficient vehicles and power generation. Through conservation and efficiency we can put the interests of the American families ahead of big oil.

Recently I heard a congressman compare offshore drilling proponents to "snake oil salesmen." Let's debunk the myths.

Myth 1: Drilling in these areas will cause the price of gas to go down and help the American consumer.

Not true. In May of 2008, the Department of Energy reported that any increase in oil production from the Arctic Refuge at best "would be only a small portion of the world oil production, and would likely be offset ... by lower production outside of the United States." It reported the mean price of oil by the year 2025 would reduce the cost of a barrel of oil by a mere 75 cents per barrel.

If we produce more oil, either offshore or in the Arctic Refuge, the rest of the world simply produces less and the cost of oil is not reduced. We can only influence the cost of oil by using less oil through conservation and new technology.

Myth 2: There is a tremendous amount of oil available offshore and in the Arctic Refuge and it will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Not true. Eighty percent of our nation's coastline is already open to oil exploration and drilling. In Alaska, approximately 90 percent of the coastal plain along the Beaufort Sea is already open. In 2008, the Energy Department reported that "there is considerable uncertainty regarding both the size and the quality of the oil reserves in ANWR." Our costs of drilling far exceed the cost of Saudi's existing wells. We don't have any reason to believe the oil would remain in this country. The global oil markets will always dictate.

Myth 3: The oil companies can drill in the Arctic Refuge and offshore in an environmentally sensitive manner.

Not true. The track record of big oil at Prudhoe Bay, the Alaska pipeline, and the Exxon Valdez show the dangers of millions of gallons of oil spilled in fragile areas. Spills occur on a daily basis with devastating results. Have we forgotten that the Colonial Pipeline Company pled guilty to criminal charges and was fined $7 million for leaking 960,000 gallons of fuel into the Reedy River in Greenville? Last week a similar amount was spilled into the Mississippi in a barge collision.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is considered one of the United State's greatest environmental treasures. It is a unique and majestic ecosystem unrivaled in wildlife and wilderness values. Likewise, the threat to our coastal regions is both environmental and economic. Proposed drilling presents a major threat to our local environment and economy. The damage to our South Carolina coastal ecosystem and tourist trade from a large spill would be devastating.

Myth 4: Drilling is needed for national security.

Not true. National security can only come with long-term solutions which result in clean and secure energy sources and not a policy dictated by big oil and global markets which we will never control. The will to move in the safe and secure direction is out there. We need national leadership that will come up with real and lasting solutions.

The drilling proponents -- "snake oil salesmen" -- are trying new tricks. If the "elixir" won't sell, put a new label on it or put an American flag on the bottle. Regardless, unless we come up with a real plan to reduce our dependence on all carbon-based fuels we will be like the poor soul who drank the snake oil. We'll wake up with an empty bottle, a tremendous headache and the problems unresolved.

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