USA Today gets it wrong: More drilling won’t help

The normally semi-rational USA Today thinks a good response to higher gasoline prices due to MidEast unrest is more domestic drilling, even though that would have no noticeable impact on U.S. gasoline prices — ever! — according to the US Energy Information Administration (see “EIA: New offshore drilling will lower gasoline prices in 2030 a few pennies a gallon).

CAP’s Daniel J. Weiss offers the opposing view.

Unrest in Libya and Egypt is driving up oil prices, stirring concerns that gasoline could hit $5 a gallon by summer. Like a smoker’s persistent cough, it’s another warning to change our ways. America sends nearly $1 billion daily overseas to purchase oil, which is nearly half the trade deficit. Nearly 20% of our oil imports come from the Persian Gulf, where instability causes roller coaster prices.

“Drill, baby, drill” won’t get us out of this mess.

We have only 2% of world oil reserves but use one-quarter of world oil production. Oil companies want more ocean drilling, yet it will take years to produce anything from the thousands of undeveloped Gulf of Mexico leases they already own. And nuclear plants are no solution because they are exorbitantly expensive and time consuming to build.

We must shrink oil use by increasing vehicle efficiency, using cleaner fuels and investing in public transit.

The Obama administration has responded to the oil threat by requiring that fuel economy improve by one-third in cars built from 2012 to 2016. This would save a cumulative 1.8 billion barrels of oil and lower drivers’ gas bills by an average of $2,800 per vehicle.

The president plans to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Eliminating $4 billion in Big Oil tax loopholes would provide customer rebates and help build vehicle recharging stations. Planned investments in high-speed rail and public transportation would also reduce oil use and create jobs. We should also power new trucks with plentiful domestic natural gas instead of diesel.

The president should sell 30 million barrels (4% of the total) from our full emergency oil reserve if Mideast instability drives gasoline to $4 per gallon. Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton sold reserve oil to lower prices and reduce the deficit.

The House Republicans’ budget would increase foreign oil dependency by slashing rail and public transportation. It would cut funds for research and domestic production of super efficient vehicles, while protecting Big Oil’s tax loopholes.

President Obama has us on the road to lower foreign oil use. This is the time to “invest and grow” and not “cut and run.” We must kick our oil habit before it’s too late.

Daniel J. Weiss is a senior fellow and director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress.

21 Responses to USA Today gets it wrong: More drilling won’t help

  1. Kevin says:

    From what I understand, the problem isn’t that companies are not allowed to drill — the problem is that the oil sources that are available (shale oil for example) while plentiful, are not low cost. Shale oil for example doesn’t make money unless oil is above something between $70 and $100/barrel. That has to be a sustained price — any bouncing up and down kills the economics — and oil, being a global commodity as it is, will have a volatile price. Drilling proponents are only telling half the story.

  2. Lewis C says:

    The denialism of Peak Oil is far more comprehensive than that even of climate destabilization – to the extent that it is scarcely debated in public. One of the things the two issues have in common is that the AWOL POTUS refuses to mention either of them.

    PO is somewhat easier to track, in that existing wells outputs are falling by ~ 4 million Blue barrels/day (4 x 365 per year) and demand is rising at around 2 MBbls/day. That is, we need to find ~6 MBbls/d of new supplies just to keep abreast of demand. Yet since 2005, the total available per day including all ‘unconventional liquids’ has risen from ~85 MBbls/d to only 87 MBbls/d.

    The fact that traded oil is declining faster than the global depletion rate reflects rising demand within producer nations, such as Mexico, which is expected to lose its capacity to export (to the US) in 2012. For reasons best known to themselves, the corporations have neglected to get sufficient tankers commissioned to make up that shortfall with ME/NA supplies.



  3. Lore says:

    The new mantra on CNBC right now is to process all that Bakken Oil Shale. Pointing out that we’ve got all these plentiful reserves rivaling that of the Middle East. When this was brought up yesterday in an interview with T. Boone Pickens, he figures that ultimately the extraction costs would mean oil would have to approach $180 a barrel before refiners could see a return on their investment close to present levels.

    Peak Oil says we are not running out of oil, we are just running out of cheap oil. So I guess we could refine shale oil in the future and attempt to perpetuate business as usual, as long as we’re willing to pay North of $7/gal for gas.

    It’s also important to note that big oil companies would just love to get their hands on all the new leases they can. Not that they would do anything with them, but just having the reserves in their portfolio fattens their stock.

  4. K. Nockels says:

    How can they say that in 2030 it would lower prices a little bit. That is a lie bigger than Texas. By 2030 if we are still addicted to oil the damand will have far out stripped supplies. Which means the price will have balloned and crashed many times between now and than, along with the world economy. The big events caused by Climate Change and our attempts at triage will also be using hugh amounts of energy as we try and protect area’s that in the end will be lost along with the energy we used to try and save them. Instead of using fossil fuels strickly as a means to transition to a low carbon economy and life syle, the boom and bust of the clash between supply and demand is what the world has decided to do. The quality of future fossil fuels and the amount of energy they can provide for the amount it takes to get them out of the ground will mean high prices no matter what.

  5. Alf says:

    You humans have a finite resource coupled with continuous (non-finite) future demand. Expanding the finite resource by a finite amount will only delay a solution to the problem. Renewable energy is the only solution that matches future demand. Anything less is shortsighted and foolish. All this should have been obvious to you 100 years ago. You humans are such fools. We came to this planet looking for intelligent life. We hope you evolve into something intelligent someday, but for now, it seems there is no hope.

  6. Ziyu says:

    An interactive climate solutions chart showing the emissions deficit and how much each solution reduces it.

  7. Zetetic says:

    I sincerely hope that Obama doesn’t open up the strategic reserves, unless it comes with some major concessions from the Republicans on environmental issues (renewable energy, carbon-trading, electric-vehicles, mass transit, etc).

    If Obama plays it right it could create major public pressure for the Republicans to cave on some of the issues, and it would make far more difference in the long run than just selling off some of the reserve.

  8. Andy says:

    The oil reserves will be selling off quite a bit of crude. One of the salt dome storage caverns in Louisiana has eroded to the point where its walls are no longer thick enough. This cavern will be largely drained and the oil sold on the market. Good timing for Obama!!

  9. Ziyu says:

    @7 Zetetic, the problem with that approach is that it would be too easy for opponents to create a narrative that Obama is holding the US hostage to his environmental agenda. Instead of threatening/pressuring Republicans, Obama should call for more biofuels, natural gas cars, electric cars, and public transportation including high speed rail while opening up the reserve. Opening up the reserve can have the symbolism of desperation and it should be used to show how easily we can become desperate because of oil. Then Obama needs to say something like “to make sure this doesn’t happen again we should support alternative fuels and mass transit” Then again, I’m no political strategist so I can’t guarantee success.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Funny how Obama does nothing on anthropogenic climate destabilisation, less than nothing on Peak Oil, but jumps to action when Monsatan requires its RoundupReady alfalfa approved for release, to pollute the croplands and poison livestock. Anyone who speaks of extra drilling in the US (the most highly explored region on earth)reducing prices in 2030, when demand, (unless it crashes as the economy and biosphere crash, an almost certain outcome),will exceed production by tens of millions of barrels a day (these are such silly hypotheticals) is sorely in need of some help. Regretably that’s all a corrupt, capitalist media can ever produce. Pabulum to keep the rabble in blissful ignorance, lest they panic, or worse still, add one and one and come up with three, ie give up the ‘magic thinking’ that mass indoctrination has drummed into their brains from infancy, and finally realise that the lust for ‘More’ of a tiny caste of infinitely avaricious Johnny Roccos has driven us all to the Gates of Hell. The day of that dawning, the Dawning of the Braindead, will not be a happy one for the masters.

  11. Bob Wallace says:

    “Funny how Obama does nothing on anthropogenic climate destabilisation, less than nothing on Peak Oil”

    President Obama has done nothing.

    Pouring billions of dollars into green energy as part of the economic recovery bill is “nothing”.

    Drastically increasing efficiency requirements for vehicles is “nothing”.

    Those of you on the side of minimizing climate change and minimizing the impact of rising oil prices – keep this sort of disinformation going and you are going to help Republicans capture the White House in 2012.

    You think Hucklebee, Romney, or any other Republican president will do a ‘Cash for Clunkers’, put scientists in charge of science, push the EPA to regulate CO2, work toward a million EVs on the road within four years, assist the implementation of green energy?

    Stop and think a minute. Don’t let perfect be the destroyer of good. Perfect is not a choice you will find on your ballot. Ever.

  12. Claude Wren says:

    Methane gas is not the answer. Read Abrahm Lustgarten’s articles on ProPublica. Read the NYTimes article online now and in the paper edition tomorrow as it blows the lid off the toxic, killing process of hydrofracking. Too many diesel trucks spewing too many toxins 24/7 in too many places, now destroying NE Pennsylvania, dumping chemical laden radioactive waste into rivers and thus into the drinking water of millions of people from northern PA all the way down to the Chesapeake Bay. Too many lies by too many drilling corporations. People are getting sick and dying from this inherently dangerous process. Please stop referring to natural gas as the magic bullet. Community solar, community wind, geothermal now. Remove all tax subsidies from oil and methane gas exploration and drilling now.

  13. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Bob #11. Thank you. Obama needs support and much more understanding of what he is attempting to do. Given what he’s up against, he’s doing well, ME

  14. Zetetic says:

    @ Ziyu:
    I agree that is a risk. That is why I specified…

    If Obama plays it right it could create major public pressure for the Republicans to cave on some of the issues

    The Republicans will of course try to spin it negatively, but conversely it will be easier (IMO) for Obama to sell to the public the need to reduce the USA’s dependency on oil at the same time in order to make the USA less vulnerable to oil price fluctuations.

    Besides what is the alternative?
    Just sell the oil so that they take the credit for a “fix” that does nothing and leaves the USA just as dependent on oil as before and lets AGW continue to get worse?
    To a politician that sounds good, but I’d prefer Obama to show more foresight, not that I necessarily expect him to.

    As to your comment….

    Instead of threatening/pressuring Republicans, Obama should call for more biofuels, natural gas cars, electric cars, and public transportation including high speed rail while opening up the reserve.

    Unless every major polluter (and their media allies) in the USA suddenly drops dead at the same time the Republicans will only change if they feel forced to do so for the sake of their own immediate political carers. They won’t do so currently because their political masters won’t allow it, and to do so would be tantamount to admitting that they were wrong about something that is killing tens of thousands of people a year, and costing countries around the world hundreds in billions in damages a year.
    Therefore, unless the Republicans are pressured in some manner, they won’t do anything to solve the problem, even as New York disappears under the sea (“waste of taxpayer money to save it” they’ll say).

    Opening up the reserve can have the symbolism of desperation and it should be used to show how easily we can become desperate because of oil. Then Obama needs to say something like “to make sure this doesn’t happen again we should support alternative fuels and mass transit”

    Ummmm….maybe I misunderstood your intent, but isn’t that essentially what I said?

  15. Bernd1964 says:

    The idea to prolong the oil burning age for a few years more by mining low EROI-deposits of oil is short-sighted. We rested much too long on an outdated level of technology. Ideal for cars and the environment would be the combination of an electrical engine with a small cold fusion reactor which converts Nickel to Copper as presented by Italian scientists from the University of Bologna just some weeks ago. But even this solution would require huge amounts of oil and other resources just to produce and maintain cars and road infrastructure.

    And then there’s another important question: we have to ask ourselves if we really want to live on a planet that is highly dominated by a technological infrastructure. If technology rules our lives bureaucracy, corporatism and enhanced elitist enslavement will be inevitable. Over-consumptive lifestyles lead automatically to social enslavement because everybody becomes so dependent.

    A natural life style in harmony with the biosphere and without too many unnecessary dependencies is the best foundation for individual freedom. The more technology rules our lives the less free we are.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Claude #12, the dead souls, those who commit the sin against the Holy Spirit, the sin against Life, every day, don’t care if they straight out poison people. They’ll lie through their teeth and get their political employees to grant them a green light, just so long as there is a buck in it. ‘The love of money is the root of all evil’-were truer words ever uttered?

  17. Colorado Bob says:

    How a determined Vietnam Vet living in rural Wyoming faced down an oil and gas company and began a national debate on the environmental effects of natural gas drilling.

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Bob #11, and Merrelyn #13, we’ll just have to disagree. I was guilty of hyperbole, for which I apologise. Obama has done some things, but, in my opinion, not nearly enough, and not what he promised to do. My opinion of Obama mirrors my opinion of your ‘one pro-Big Business party with two wings’ political system. I think that trusting the Democrats to be ‘less bad’ that the Republicans is a recipe for disaster, the disaster that we are living through. Your country and mine and everybody else’s absolutely requires leaders who will articulate the facts, that we are in a fight to the death not just with ecological collapse, but with those utterly malign forces that refuse to allow these horrors to be addressed. This is a crisis far, far, worse than WW2, and the enemy is far, far, more dangerous than the Nazis and Japanese, squared.

  19. John says:

    Anyone else looking for more reliable sources? And there’s no link to the House Republican budget…

  20. Zetetic says:

    @ John:
    Sorry but your comment was rather vague.
    Do you mean more reliable sources for natural gas? If so, then yes they have been searched for, and we’ve used much of them already. Hence the problem and the use of fracking.

    As for the Republican budget, I’m not sure why you brought it up in this thread but basically it guts research into renewable energy, guts research into weather and climate (keeps finding evidence of AGW), guts science education (apparently America needs more burger flippers not scientists and engineers), guts jobs programs and renewable energy programs that create jobs. Cuts home heating aid to the poor, etc.

    Oh, but as part of their plan to “cut spending” they’re increasing military spending by more than the aforementioned cuts, and they’re preserving fossil fuel subsidies (in the name of “preserving jobs”, see the above jobs programs and renewables jobs cuts for the hypocrisy).

    Maybe these will help….
    Losing the Future: House Republican budget cuts would strangle innovation and clean energy

    The GOP decides accurate weather forecasting and hurricane tracking are luxuries America can’t afford

    NY Times on “The dirty energy party”: “The Republican agenda is breathtakingly negative”

  21. Disagree on nuclear power. With James Hansen, I support building breeder reactors, as quickly as possible.