The Facts on Drilling Slowly Surface

Bill Scher

After a big PR push to exploit public frustration with high gas prices and open up our coastlines to more oil drilling, the facts on how little drilling can help are starting to surface.

Recall that last week, President George Bush said coastal drilling was part of the “short run” answer to high gas prices. As noted here previously, that is false. The oil would take years to get out the ocean floor and into our cars. More importantly, there is too little oil off the coasts to make a serious dent in the price gas twenty years from now, let alone this year.

And yesterday, White House spokesperson Dana Perino admitted it (via Think Progress).

Asked by the reporter about the logic of trying to lower gas prices today with “oil that can’t be gathered for another 10 years,” Perino conceded the point:

…there’s not a real good short-term answer. And we’ve been very explicit about that from the beginning…

…So the important thing that we need to do is continue on — to continue the conservation measures, work on a way to send a signal to the market that we’re serious about increasing domestic production here in environmentally sensitive ways, and in addition to that, find ways that we can continually express to the American people not to expect a short-term response. There’s not going to be a short-term response, and it would be irresponsible for anybody to suggest there would be.

Apparently, that means President Bush is being “irresponsible.” But at least now it’s indisputable. The White House acknowledges that lifting the coastal drilling ban will not do anything to lower gas prices “in the short run.”

That isn’t stopping Sen. John McCain, who today reiterated his support for ending the coastal drilling moratorium off the coast of Santa Barbara — the site of the infamous 1969 oil spill that enraged the public and forced the passage of a series on environmental protection legislation.

(That cracker McCain campaign staff, always thinking!)

But even at a staged event, McCain couldn’t avoid hearing the truth.

McCain was joined for a roundtable discussion by Michael Feeney of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, who lambasted the coastal drilling plan. From MSNBC’s First Read:

Feeney … took issue with McCain’s controversial proposal to lift the moratorium on offshore oil exploration: “It makes me nervous to think about those who are proposing to drain America’s offshore oil and gas reserves as quickly as possible in the hopes of driving down the price of gasoline, because I think when you look at the good sources of information, were we to open up the California coast or the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, it would be 12, 15, maybe 20 years before those resources came online and got to full productions.”

Adding that some research shows that drilling in ANWR would only “reduce our dependence on foreign oil from 70% to 67%,” Feeney added, “I’m not sure most Americans would think that’s really worth the price of admission.”

At least you can’t say McCain’s events are scripted.

While the facts on the impotent effect of coastal drilling become more known, conservatives pushers of drilling continue to cling to recent polls as a security blanket.

Conservative political consultant Dan Schnur argues at the NY Times Campaign Stops blog that McCain’s newfound support for coastal drilling is politically astute because “national voters have adjusted their thinking on oil exploration. A Rasmussen poll released last week showed that two-thirds of Americans want to see the offshore ban rescinded.” Newt Gringrich’s “American Solutions” blog hyped the same poll last week in support of its dishonestly named “Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less.” campaign.

But the Rasmussen poll asked (emphasis added) “In order to reduce the price of gas, should drilling be allowed in offshore oil wells off the coasts of California, Florida, and other states?”

After being misinformed that drilling would lower the price of gas, it’s not surprising that voters would express support.

But what do you think the results would be if an accurate question was offered, such as: should drilling be allowed off the coasts of California, Florida and other states, even though it would NOT lower the price of gas in the next several years?

The mistake that politicians in support of the gas tax holiday made was taking comfort in polls that did not factor in what would happen after all the facts were laid out.

The facts on coastal drilling are coming out. Poll-driven politicians, beware.

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