Testifying before Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, conservative Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens explained his plan to dramatically decrease oil usage by greatly expanding wind power electricity. “World oil production, I believe,” Pickens explained, “has peaked.” When questioned by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) about the value of lifting the moratorium on drilling of the East and West coasts of the United States, Pickens responded:
I’m not a big believer. I think you’re going to get a rude awakening as to the value of the East and West coasts when it’s opened up and when it’s put up for sale. When it’s put up for sale, I think you’ll be surprised at the price you get for the tracts.
Pickens was politely relating to Domenici a cold hard fact — the offshore oil reserves of the United States lie predominantly in areas already open to drilling. The Gulf Coast and Alaskan shores, not the California or Eastern seaboard, have the great majority of remaining reserves:
Most of the country’s estimated offshore reserves – about 75 percent – lie in areas that have been drilled for years or are being opened for exploration. Roughly 48 percent of the nation’s estimated reserves, or 41 billion barrels, lie beneath the western and central Gulf of Mexico, where oil companies armed with new drilling technology are pushing into ever deeper water. Another 27 percent of the estimated reserves, or 23.6 billion barrels, are believed to lie off the north coast of Alaska, where the federal government sold oil exploration leases this spring, despite fears that the work would hurt the polar bear population.
As the Energy Information Administration has found, lifting the offshore drilling moratorium would have an “insignificant” impact on prices for at least twenty years.