Since offshore oil is de minimis, why shouldn’t Obama and the Dems make a deal? Part 1

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"Since offshore oil is de minimis, why shouldn’t Obama and the Dems make a deal? Part 1"

http://something-for-nothing.net/title.jpg Getting something for nothing is always a good idea. Kudos to Senator Obama and other progressives for understanding this. The key questions are

  1. How much of a “nothing” is ending the congressional moratorium on offshore drilling?
  2. How much of a “something” can progressives get by way of a serious effort to end our oil addiction once and for all?

Right now, it seems like conservatives are willing to hold their breath until they turn blue in the face before they agree to move any legislation whatsoever if it does not include coast drilling. Politically, they seem to have a winning argument in part because the media simply isn’t policing the debate, even when people like McCain just repeat the lies of the oil industry over and over again. And in national politics, the side who doesn’t have to explain their position usually wins.

I do think that agreeing to some coastal drilling now is de minimis as for two reasons:

  1. Congress is going to have to end the moratorium sooner or later. If $4 gasoline doesn’t bring enough pressure from the oil companies, conservatives, and the public, then $6 or $8 will. So why not agree to it now in return for jumpstarting the transition to a clean energy economy — rather enduring pointless political pain and waiting a few years to start the serious transition?
  2. The Group-of-10 bipartisan deal leaves most coastal states out, as I’ll discuss in Part 2. And I doubt many of the remaining states are going to actually approve offshore drilling. The one that seems most excited, Virginia, will be vetoed by the Pentagon because the Navy uses the state’s coastal waters for a variety of activities. And the oil companies don’t really have that much interest in drilling off the Atlantic, since there’s not that much oil and no pipeline delivery infrastructure to their refineries

I doubt the deal would even generate 50,000 barrels of oil a day 15 years from now. Is it really worth losing any political points in races for Congress or the presidency to (temporarily) hold back under one-1000th of the global oil supply — especially when progressives can get something real for it? Of course not. For that reason, though, congressional leaders are to be applauded for refusing to allow a simple off-or-down vote on offshore drilling. Between the 60 votes conservatives are requiring every bill to achieve in the Senate, and Bush’s commitment to veto any intelligent energy legislation, conservatives have blocked all efforts to extend the renewable energy tax credits or to enact a renewable portfolio standard, among other crucial pieces of energy legislation.

Time for a deal. That’s why on Saturday, Obama “said a shift in his stance on offshore oil drilling is a necessary compromise with Republicans to gain their support for his broader goals of energy independence,” as the Washington Post reported. The RNC quickly sent out a pointless news release noting that Obama said on Wednesday:

“I want to be absolutely clear to everybody about this. If I thought that I could provide you some immediate relief on gas prices by drilling off the shores of California and New Jersey . . . if I thought that by drilling offshore, we could solve our problem, I’d do it.”

So? Obama understands offshore drilling is de minimis. If the conservatives don’t, then isn’t that the perfect time for a deal, when you can get something for nothing? So what exactly is the something that progressives should get in return? To answer that, we need to first look at the deal that is on the table, which is the subject of Part 2.

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19 Responses to Since offshore oil is de minimis, why shouldn’t Obama and the Dems make a deal? Part 1

  1. Ronald says:

    In this as many other things, perception is the reality. Anyway, how long would democrates want to get beat up with this thing, not just August, September, . . but 2008, 2010, 2012, . . .

    In national politics, we’ll just be moving on the next distortion and distraction subject.

  2. red says:

    It seems to me there’s a pretty good chance to get serious efforts to end oil addiction in the compromise. The Republicans put the Democrats in an untenable position with their efforts in offshore oil drilling. The Democrats can do the same thing with a proposal that accepts the offshore drilling point, but only in exchange for efforts that tend to reduce our need for oil in the first place (economic incentives to promote FFVs and PHEVs, R&D, etc). The public understands $4/gallon gas, and dependence on foreign oil. A bill that combines offshore drilling with progressive provisions that obviously promote fuel efficiency or reduce the need for oil will be pretty difficult for Republicans to turn down. If they did, they’d take a hit in a few months, just like the Democrats would have if they didn’t compromise.

  3. Sean says:

    Hmmm … seems to me there’s some serious disagreement on this issue.

    I have a suggestion, how about a vote?

  4. Meteor Blades says:

    A compromise may well be in the offing. But it is pointless to move so precipitously on this issue. We’ve had the ban for 27 years. Exactly what is gained by moving precipitously to remove this ban now when we will have a new Congress and a new administration in five months?

    Let that new administration, together with that new Congress, make the decision.

  5. JCH says:

    To drill and burn the offshore oil and gas is to run fast and loose with national security. That’s the part I don’t get.

    How do you fly a US fighter jet in 2020 with fuel that was burned in Gore’s Prius in 2015?

  6. John Mashey says:

    I’d suggest that offshore oil is the USA’s “petroleum piggy bank”.

    Maybe in 2100, the grandchildren of those who now have young children, would like to have a little of that oil left, hopefully not to burn.

    SO, instead of opening everything up (or not):

    1) Set a congressional cap [not a floor] on the total amount of new areas leasible, which rises from 10% in 2010 to 100% in 2100 [for approximate example.]

    2) Still subject to state rules.

    3) Would need rules to arbitrate amongst states, if several states wanted to allow drilling and the total crossed the limit.

    4) ANWR can be left as the last piggy bank for the great grandchildren to decide if they want to open or not. By that time, the permafrost wil lbe gone anyway.

    ===
    Since it takes years to lease drill rigs, explore, drill, and then build infrastructure, if one allowed everything at once, we’d get a mini peak oil (of the new leases), probably around 2030-2050. With this scheme, once things got going, we’d get a modest additional increment of oil, but it would tend to stretch out for 100-120 years, and it would be clear that there would be no magic giant jump in oil production.

    Note: from an oil company view, this at least has the plus of offering a little more predictability.

  7. Wonhyo says:

    In the practical, immediate sense, I agree that this compromise is necessary, but at what long-term cost? By giving in to the Republicans, we reinforce the false public perception that expanded drilling is an energy solution. By allowing the Republicans to frame the discussion on their terms we are postponing the acceptance of reality. The Democrats have to do a better job of framing the discussion.

    [JR: I think it's very important for any Democrats who agree to this deal to make clear that the offshore drilling is a placebo.]

  8. Ronald says:

    We can know what the true situation is/was by what happens after the drill ban is lifted. Do we get oil immediately and does gasoline go down to 2 dollars a gallon because of speculators fears of holding to long onto high priced oil futures, or/and 10, 20 years from now, do we get more than 100 000 barrels a day out of it.

    Democrats are not giving in to Republicans as much as giving in to public opinion. Something that in an election year is obviously very powerful.

  9. red says:

    “A compromise may well be in the offing. But it is pointless to move so precipitously on this issue. We’ve had the ban for 27 years. Exactly what is gained by moving precipitously to remove this ban now when we will have a new Congress and a new administration in five months?”

    What’s gained is that the drilling issue won’t be an issue during the upcoming elections that would hurt the Democrats, and whatever substantive energy independence/climate progress steps are attached by the Democrats in the compromise are also part of the gain. If you don’t get those, don’t do the compromise, and let the public understand why.

    Also, isn’t there something of a sense of urgency for solving these problems a bit?

    “By giving in to the Republicans, we reinforce the false public perception that expanded drilling is an energy solution.”

    Not if the voters understands the compromise, which should be part of the communication strategy.

    For full disclosure, I’m not a Democrat, and a lot of supposedly conservative values are important to me – like liberty, low taxes, limited regulation, entrepreneurship, and a balanced budget. However, I’m not a Republican either, and I do think (and even thought in the 90′s during the 4c gas tax debate) energy independence is important (as well as climate progress, but I’ll take energy independence as a priority now) … so take what I say in that context.

  10. Dennis says:

    Politically Obama did the right thing. The important thing is to keep renewalables funded.

    Realistically everyone who is not in the pocket of big oil (and maybe them as well …) knows that this move will do nothing for the price of oil.

    But wait, there’s more: the Republicans next move will be a cry to remove all those pesky environmental regulations that are needlessly delaying the oil companies from moving the oil rigs in place right now. Anyone want to bet that’s what we will hear next?

  11. redace says:

    John McCain does understand that this is not a long term solution. In a private function he alluded that this is more of a perception boost on the public since offshore drilling will not yeild immediate results

  12. Paul K says:

    Campaign funding, FISA, Iraq and now drilling. How many more progressive positions will Obama abandon? How can anyone have confidence that any of his positions won’t change with the political winds?

    red.
    The Senate Republican bill contains unprecedented support for plug-in and EV.

    [JR: Iraq? No change? Campaign funding? No abandonment of core principles. Drilling? I'd rather have thought you'd like someone who can compromise.]

  13. John Hollenberg says:

    Paul,

    Obama hasn’t changed his position on drilling, he is just willing to compromise in order to get something a lot more important. This is the sign of someone who could get things done.

  14. anyfreeman says:

    The confusion is that “Outrage, Inc.” has tied hung a burning tire around alternate energy, lashed it to elitist san francisco values, limousine liberals,
    and started target practice on it just in time for the election.

    There are two problems 1) the ‘stop big oil’ rhetoric has been used against energy independence as ‘looney liberals are siphoning your gas, and stealing your freedom’
    2) the positioning for the campaign is not the solution for the success of renewal energy and independence longterm.

    Tying one’s tail to a candidate’s kite might not be strategically or tactically prudent. McCain actually brought a bill to Congress in 2003 putting a price to emissions and carbon. His comments at the time it was murdered by
    “the unholy alliance of oil, auto and coal interests” demonstrated his signature stubbornness to not lie down when he had been shot.

    I suggest all future discussions in the political arena be framed as “The right to clean air, energy independence only being achievable through our innovation and ingenuity. The solar industry was created by Do it yourselfers.

    Whatever happens during the election, significant solar and alternate energy strategists must give the candidates redemptive ‘outs’ or else.
    Big Oil, Big Coal, and Detroit will win if the altenergy group dons their tinhats and starts driving nails into the redwoods.

  15. Paul K says:

    Joe,
    The compromise has been on the table for seven years. I am glad falling poll numbers have convinced Obama to follow McCain’s lead. Voters will assess the constancy of Obama’s stated positions. I wonder if Russ Feingold, a true progressive, thinks being the first candidate to eschew public financing “strengthens the system”.

    [JR: Don't know what planet you are talking about. Show me a link from 2001 for this deal.]

  16. john says:

    Joe:

    I agree completely. Unfortunately, once again the press has blown the coverage of what Obama said — as they tell it (including NPR) he flipped his position. However, he offered to compromise on limited offshore leasing if it meant the rest of his energy package was accepted.

    That’s a bargain, considering the oil guys are after the leases, not the oil. If they wanted oil, they’d be drilling in the OCS leases they have now — there’s more oil there than in ANWR and the new OCS leases they’re after.

    What’s not to like?

  17. erotik says:

    It seems to me there’s a pretty good chance to get serious efforts to end oil addiction in the compromise. The Republicans put the Democrats in an untenable position with their efforts in offshore oil drilling. The Democrats can do the same thing with a proposal that accepts the offshore drilling point, but only in exchange for efforts that tend to reduce our need for oil in the first place (economic incentives to promote FFVs and PHEVs, R&D, etc).