Why More Drilling is Not the Anwer

Of the various false solutions being proposed to the current oil shock perhaps none is more disingenous than the idea that it can be solved by drilling in the Alaskan wilderness and along the continental shelf. This is the idea that the right wing media, recently, John McCain and now President Bush have been pushing as a cureall for soaring oil prices. Since many Democrats oppose this drilling, the next false step of logic is to say Democrats are to blame. This was the thrust of President Bush's energy proposal yesterday, one that only highlights the intellectual dishonesty and partisanship of this failed Administration.

Is more drilling the answer? No for three reasons.

First, the amount of potential oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or ANWR is simply not enough to make a dent in global world consumption. The entire estimated reserves of ANWR are estimated to equal current US consumption in one year. The mere increase in China's consumption in the next few years will exceed the entire Alaskan reserves. Since the reserves would be harvested over decades, the quantity of oil they would produce each year would amount at most to a few drops in the global oil bucket.

Second, oil exploration and drilling takes years. Even if exploration began tomorrow, we would probably not see significant quantities of oil from Alaska or offshore for close to a decade.

Third, the oil companies already have millions of acres allocated to them that they have not gotten around to exploring let alone drilling in. When asked the delicate question, as some have been recently, why they have not explored these millions of acres to which the federal government has granted them rights, oil companies typically respond that the public should understand that oil exploration takes time.

There may be some opportunities for targeted, ecologically sensistive drilling off of America's shores that would make economic sense. But more drilling will not address either the current oil shock shock or the long term situation. And of course, it will worsen, not mitigate the climate.