Being Right: Drill Here, Drill Now



Bill Stoklosa

When I first heard that President Obama was opening up portions of the Atlantic coast, the Alaskan coast and the Gulf of Mexico to offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, I was elated. I was surprised as well; after all, the issue of offshore drilling had been a huge bone of contention between Obama and conservatives like Sarah Palin. Obama’s rationale for opposing offshore drilling had been based on the idea that pursuing alternative fuels was a better idea. It appears that President Obama has come around to conclude, as people like Palin had done long ago, that developing alternative fuels and offshore drilling are not mutually exclusive.

The opposition to offshore drilling was premised on the idea that the United States should be moving away from its dependence on fossil fuels and towards renewable sources of energy. Certainly we should be progressing toward a new fuel instead of petroleum, because of both environmental concerns and the cold hard fact that our supply of oil will eventually run out. However, the glaring problem with this is one cannot simply flip a switch and convert to renewable energy. Not only does much research have to go into developing renewable energy to the point that it could meet our energy needs, it would require significant changes in our infrastructure to put into practice the use of a new type of fuel. For instance, if hydrogen fuel was used to power our cars that would not only require a new fleet of automobiles, but also hydrogen stations would have to replace gas stations. This is something that would take decades to implement, even after the appropriate technology is developed. In the meantime, petroleum will have to do for a while. Conservation is important, but with a population of over 300 million and a society built around the internal combustion engine, demand for petroleum is not going away. Though governors of some coastal states will probably not be too happy with Obama’s plan, the President has finally realized that you can drill offshore in an environmentally responsible way. For instance, Obama exempted Bristol Bay in Alaska from oil drilling because of its important fisheries and the fact that during part of the year it is home to endangered whales.

The amount of oil and natural gas gained from this plan should be substantial. The Gulf area alone is estimated to contain 3.5 billion barrels worth of oil, and 17 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. However, many people criticize offshore drilling because estimates say that it will take 4-12 years for its impact to be felt in domestic oil prices. However, that excuse has been used since the Clinton administration, obviously had this nation stepped up our drilling then we would be reaping the benefits by now. It can say with confidence that it will be longer than 4-12 years before this nation has weaned itself off oil and natural gas, so drilling makes sense until alternative fuels become practical.

Adding to our domestic supply will not only lower prices at the pump it will also make the nation more energy independent. This is important because much of the world’s oil supplies are controlled by oppressive regimes; many of them led by dictators of questionable sanity (I’m talking about you, Chavez and Gaddafi). Being more energy independent will help mitigate the influence that these regimes have over the U.S. Continuing to rely on oil and natural gas is not a long term solution, but since these fuels will be necessary for a while we need to find a way to keep the U.S. supplied with them. Offshore drilling provides a way to do this that will both reduce prices for consumers and also enhance U.S. national security by increasing energy independence. In short, there is no reason not to drill here and drill now.